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Part 4: OUT THROUGH THE CHIM’NEY WHEREEVER DID WE LEAD

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“How is your dinner, Jacob?”

Jacob glanced up, the wind pushing his hair back against his face. His face had been glued to his plate all day, ignoring the sun that cast across his eyes.

His dinner was delicious, he couldn’t deny that. Much better than the food he ate with Edgar and John when they go for the daily meals at the local tavern and inn. Greasy slabs of salted pork with cornbread made from the leftover crops old Louis Gordon’s cows wouldn’t eat. And that was lunch. For dinner was fish hauled from the icebox out back and served with only the cheap liquor to drink. Jacob liked eating there, he wasn’t some high-class person who picked at every little thing. He ate what he got and it would keep him full. But, he never went there as often as his two friends did.

His dinner here was almost astounding! Served was a large roasted ham, glazed in sweet brown sugars and molasses, cast alongside a large, buttery baked potato and the salad made from only the freshest vegetables that was pulled from the farms down past Redwood. The bottles of Medoc that lay about the intricate centerpiece in the table were still full, all ready to be swallowed down the gullet. They sat on the porch sticking out from the upper study, overlooking the coastal line below.

“Uh….fine, Montague”

Montague looked worriedly at Jacob. “Is all well? You’re not coming down with a  fever are you?”

“No…” Jacob said. “I’m fine. Just a little tired, that’s all”

Montague relaxed a bit. “Well, eat up, man! A good meal gives you energy! And believe me, energy is the best thing you will need!” he laughed, spilling his wine onto the birch wood floor beneath their feet. “Why, energy for a person is almost as valuable as blood!”

Jacob nodded and went back to eating. In the distance he saw the lonely steeple of St. James’s, Redwood Island’s only church, standing amongst the towering pine trees that dotted the rolling landscape.  Something was unsettling about Redwood at night. It was a ghost town now. Almost totally abounded under the fiery cast of the orange sun that set just above the hillside. Jacob could still smell the odor of the gas over here on the overlook of the manor.

“May I…uh…be excused?” Jacob looked up. “I have to get some more salt from the kitchen….”

“Of course! Hurry back!” Montague said. “The flies are starting to circle now!”

Jacob nodded and stood up, walking back though the glass swing door into the hallways.

He just needed to take a walk. Clear his head of concerns and troubles. Montague was a nice man, taking him in and telling him all his wondrous secrets and studies, yes. But….something about Redwood….something about Montague…nothing added up.

As Jacob walked down the corridor, past statues and portraits, Jacob noticed a small door on the left side of the hall. A sign above read: “STUDY”. The door was slightly ajar.
Out of his own morbid curiously, Jacob silently and quickly opened the door. A smell of mothballs struck his nose as he stepped in. The room was dark, lit only by the setting sun. A desk and a bookshelf occupied the lonely room.

There was another cold draft, just like Jacob’s room. No windows open anywhere. No vents leading into the room. But it was still freezing in the room.

Jacob looked at the desk. No use looking at it. The drawers and cover were chained shut, padlock holding the links together. The walls were featureless and bare, all save for a small plaque hung from the wall above the desk.

Jacob stumbled over to look at it. It had Montague’s name written on the bottom of the wooden frame within a bronze rectangle.

“IT IS OUR NOBLEST DUTY TO GIVE OURSELVES ONTO THE CAUSE OF FURTHERING HUMANITY. NO MATTER OF WHAT COST- SIR MONTAGUE NORMAN STEIN”.

Jacob looked over the plague, trying to understand what it meant.

“Give ourselves onto…?” Jacob rubbed his chin. “Odd….”

Then, he heard something echo from within the room. A low hiss of steam from somewhere. Followed by a screech of cogs against metal and a low wet ripping noise.

Jacob jumped and looked out the open door behind him. No one stood there, but his lonely shadow. Frantically he searched for the source of the sounds.

Moving his head back and forth, he noticed the sounds came from his left, near the bookshelf. Slowly, he crept over to it, noticing the sounds of steam and rattling was getting louder.

As his fingers touched the oak shelf, he felt it swing away as if on a hinge. The shelf glided across the carpet, revealing a large black space behind it. Cold air and the sound of machinery echoed from about.

“What the….?”

Jacob carefully reached out, feeling nothing but cool air on his skin. It was a type of chute. Like a coal chute they had down in the mines where his cousins worked. A bottomless, deep pit leading to a large area where the coal was held and burned. A smell from earlier, a smell of rot and decay, wafted from the empty dark drop.

Jacob stepped carefully back, pushing the bookshelf back into place. His heart was beating quickly, hands trembling. Something was definitely wrong. Something was indeed.

He scurried out of the study, closing the door behind him. The sun had almost set out, leaving the halls dark and foreboding. Shadows from the statues lining the halls twisted into alien figures as Jacob passed them. He climbed up the staircase back to the porch and tossed open the glass door.

No one was there. Just a bunch of empty plates and a note tucked under a wine glass.

“JACOB, MY APOLOGIES FOR LEAVING YOU WITH SUCH A MESS. BUT I HAD TAKEN THE MOMENT TO CONTINUE WORK ON THE MACHINE. I WILL BE GONE FOR THE NIGHT AND INTO TOMORROW SHOULD THINGS GET DELAYED. PLEASE TAKE THE PLATES TO THE DINING HALL KITCHEN. IF YOU WANT, YOU MAY MEET ME LATER ON.”

“SIGNED, MONATGUE”.

Jacob sighed and gathered the plates into his arms. Food scraps stuck to the fine china plates. Wine pooled around the rings of the tall, lanky glasses.

Jacob had a plan. He wanted to find out what was really about Montague and his machine. He had several questions on his mind and he continued to think about as he carried the dishes into the dining hall.

Why was Redwood’s harbors closed off? Where were the people? Why was Montague so obsessed with his machine? Why were there hidden passages throughout the manor?

Jacob walked, head in the clouds, back to his room. He removed his clothes behind the bathroom door and changed into his nightwear before collapsing into bed.

But, who was to say, he slept? Jacob lay in bed, tossing and turning for reason and answers to come into his head.

Then, after what seemed like hours of pondering and rolling, he had an idea.

“Yes.” He said to himself as his eyes slowly closed. “I shall do it tomorrow when Montague is not about”.
And with that, he went to sleep, pulling over the covers to keep warm from the cold air.

Somewhere in the manor, a heavy door slammed shut and footsteps echoed off into the darkness.

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Part 4: THROUGH PIPE AND CONDUIT, WE ALL FAT TO BLEED.

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Jacob heard the sound of the crash from even within his bedroom. A low thud, like a man falling to the floor.
It sound like it was coming from upstairs. Was Montague back so early? Jacob climbed out of bed, slipping on old shoes to walk across the cold metal floor.

“Montague? Montague!” Jacob shouted, hoping he would get response.

No one answered. In fact, all went silent as soon as he spoke. There was then the sound of hushed footsteps and the sound of something behind dragged across the floor. Jacob believed it was a burglar, come from the empty town to plunder the manor!

Quickly, Jacob grabbed a large wooden cane from the side of the bed, inching slowly to the door. The sound of footsteps from above crossed over his head and then stopped.

“Who goes there?” Jacob said, shouting into the roof. Maybe the thief would hear and, in surprise, flee the manor.

Or at least Jacob was hoping.

The footsteps stopped and then came the sound of a heavy steel door opening, creaking across the floorboards. There was a sound of grunting and then the sound of something heavy being lifted. All sounds stopped a few minutes later.

“Hello?” Jacob’s voice lowered to a hush.

Then, the sound of footsteps came again, quickly and frantically. They ran over his head again and then seemed to get a lower. Somewhere, a door flung open and in the corner of his eye, through the window, Jacob could see a lanky figure dash across the night and out of sight.
“Hey!” Jacob gained courage and ran towards the window. “Stop!”

Jacob pushed open the window, the clattering of the shutters stopped the figure. It looked back at Jacob before running into the forest.

“I’ll have to stop him….” Jacob thought, running towards the door, cane in hand. He was almost to the door handle when he heard the wet splat behind him.

He turned, seeing the bookcase swung open. A huge fat wild hog lay unmoving amidst the new passage. Blood was pouring in streams down its body. It seemed like it was recently dead.

“What in the hell….?”

Jacob walked over to it, poking it gently with the stick. It didn’t react. Blood poured out more as he poked it.

He walked over, hoping to view the nature of the pig’s death. Maybe get a reason why it was in his room inside the manor late at night. As he grabbed the foot, the room began to shake violently.

Pictures on the wall fell to the floor, frames breaking away. The mattress on the bed fell to the side. The pig’s heavy body jerked forward, pulling Jacob with it.

“No…no….no!” Jacob could only stammer before he and the pig’s body slid down the empty chute and into the darkness.

The rattling and shaking slowly died down. It was almost as if it was trying to shake the pig’s corpse back into the chute, letting it fall deeper.
Jacob couldn’t see, but he could feel the pig’s blood run across his clothes. The sound of machinery working got louder as he neared the bottom. And the smell of rot pierced his nostrils even more so. He wanted to scream, but was falling so fast, he feared he would lose his breath and voice altogether.

The last thing Jacob felt on his chest was the pig slamming into it as they hit the floor. A low wet splat followed, blood oozing in rivers everywhere. Jacob wasn’t hurt, but he felt horrible shaking rattle his bones throughout.

“Oh…..” Jacob grabbed his chest, feeling the warm blood down his hand. “My God….what has happened?”

He turned his head slowly, hoping to find where he was. Maybe somewhere like the basement of the manor.

As soon as he turned his head, he really wished he hadn’t.

Bodies. Naked bodies hung from meathooks in perfect lines around him. Men, women, children, hung like cattle, swaying and lurching in front of crashing pistons and spinning flywheels.

On each line, it seemed like it was elevated by pipes under a grated floor. The floor was soaked in blood and entrails. Jacob could swear he saw hands and feet, toes and digits scattered along the line.

His eyes went wide as he saw what happened next.

The line suddenly jerked into motion. A large portly man, eyes closed and face covered with condensation, lurched forward along the line. It swayed eerily as it trundled past his  face.
The line picked up speed now. It traveled a bit farther until it suddenly stopped, the body almost flying off.

The sudden jerking from the stop must have set a special set of pressure-driven blades, which jerked out awkwardly to embed themselves into the man’s stomach. There was a wet splat as the knives pierced his skin. Blood, gushing out in rivers, poured out into the grates below.

The line began to start again. The knives, never removed from the man, ripped the man’s stomach open, leaving deep wounds within the stomach cavity. Blood spilled out from the wounds in deep rivers. The skin peeled away, the flesh fell off. Blood and entrails spilled from the cavity, landing in thick splashes on the grated floor.

The man’s body lurched and swayed, intestines hanging from the man like string. It entered a small circular chamber, built of steel and had large pipes running from the bottom, exited into a furnace built at the bottom. The body entered here, blood gathering into the grates below.  What seemed to be a series of blades were clamped onto the walls. Each parallel across each other, as if whatever was sent through, the blades could easily remove the limbs, allowing more blood to flow out.

There was a low splat of entrails hitting and sloshing through the pipes, hitting the fires of the furnaces below. It was a draining chamber, to keep organs and the such from clogging the drains.

The body came out, limbless and organless, blood gushing from the stumps. Jagged bones stuck out like grotesques. The body jerked down the line, squelching and gushing.

Foul vapors wafted out from the body as it slid along the line. Jacob could see through the corpse by the massive hole in the center. Clean, but red in color. Flesh hung from the sides like string on a spool. The corpse seemed bloated and wet, like it was in water for some time.

Ahead was the end of the line. A large pit filled with hot coals, fueled by the heat of the immense boilers and engines. The track curved back to the start, ready to pick up another cargo. The grated floor now became a conveyor belt, dumping limbs and feet and hands into the pit. The unwantables of the product

As the body passed, it reached a spot where the walls narrowed a bit. Several spinning gears, each decked with sharp blades, spun wildly through the slots in the walls. As the corpse reached the space, the blades took swift strikes at the blood-soaked torso, slicing off chunks of flesh and bone, landing in thick piles on the conveyor.

The line, hook now carrying the remaining chunk of once a man by a strip of flesh, jerked suddenly before the pit. The force ripped the flesh from the hook, sending it into the hot furnace below. It landed with a dull thud amongst legs and feet and coals.

The hook traveled back around the line to pick up another. As it did, the movement pulled another hook along, this one carrying a large skinned pig.

“Oh….oh dear Christ….” Jacob got to his knees, climbing from the bloody floor to his trembling knees. “What…what the hell is this place?”

Everywhere he looked he saw corpses and machinery. Blood spewing onto walls, floors and other corpses. Steam sprayed from pipes and valves, scalding any corpses that passed through the line.

Jacob got to his bearings and stumbled away as fast as he could, leaping and pushing his way through various corpses. All of them, animal and man, seemed to have been suffocated, faces turned blue, eyes bulging.

Jacob closed his eyes, the smell of rotting corpses filled his nose, the cold air biting his skin. He opened his eyes a bit, seeing a door just ahead of him.

In a burst of energy, his feet waded through the piles of intestines and ribcages split open by unknown hand, he slammed his weight against the door. It flew out from him, sending him crashing to the floor.

Jacob, the fear swelling on his breast, looked up to find his location. He was back in the same hallway he and Montague spent the day in before. The hallway leading to the lighthouse entrance. The hallway with the….

Jacob turned his head and looked behind him. He wanted to vomit, the smell and fear churning his stomach.

The sign above him read: “FUEL STORAGE”

“No! No!”

Jacob got to his knees. The sound of footsteps echoed from the wall. Someone had heard the crash and was coming to investigate.

Jacob looked about frantically and took off running. He had to get out. To find help and more importantly, find Montague.

If he could get to the entrance at the lighthouse, he could telegraph Henry at the docks. Or telephone the mainland. They would come with the navy. Guards and militiamen.

The footsteps behind him became louder, picking up in pace. Jacob ran faster, the person behind him speeding up.

“Who are you?!” Jacob turned his head, shouting at the figure behind him. “What do you want?”

Jacob ran faster, breathing growing labored as he raced through the labyrinth machine. “Get away from me!”

He turned his head and threw open a door, expected to see the staircase leading up to the surface. He took one step, one leap forward….

He fell. His feet, rather than be greeted by solid ground, stepped onto the air above the chasm. Jacob didn’t scream. He was too exhausted and scared to do that.

He had no idea of how far he had fallen. Maybe a few feet. Maybe a mile or two. He closed his eyes, waiting to hit the cold rocks below.

There was a splash. Jacob felt warm liquid surging about him. He bobbed his head, trying to get some air. It was thick, smelling liquid. Not water. Not sewage…

The taste of copper….a smell he had picked up before…

Blood. All blood.

Jacob looked about him, the dim lanterns of the tunnel casting some light onto where was.

The river surged about him. Blood seeped into his clothes, his hair, his skin! It filled his mouth and his hands as he desperately clawed for any way out

More blood fell from pipes above. A shadow of a twisted, mangled man cast above him. He was below the draining line. Where the blood was gathered and sent to part unknown….

Jacob couldn’t see or say anything. The fear was too great….

The last thing he saw was Montague standing above the perch.

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Part 5: SO WHEN THEY COME O-KNOCKING UPON YE DOOR, TAKE TO YOUR BED, SEE NOT WHAT THEY NEED.

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“Jacob? Dear God man, wake up”

Jacob’s eyes slowly opened. His vision was dim, his mouth and tongue dry. He wanted to speak but he couldn’t.

He was in a bed, back up in the manor. A small room with bare furnishings. Only a desk, a chair and the bed Jacob was in.

Montague sat beside him on a chair. His face was scrounged into a worried expression, his hands were wringing.

“Oh, good! You are up!” he smiled at him. “I…apologize for what you have seen…”

Jacob stared lazily at him. He couldn’t speak. His tongue felt heavy. His vision was cloudy.

“Let me explain this, Jacob. I am no madman or anything. What I do is out of scientific expansion, not bloodlust”

Montague took a drink of wine and sighed. “You see….it all started about a year ago....just after I found the old book telling me what I had to do. I was spending weeks trying to formulate the compound to fuel the machinery! A compound strong and mystical enough to allow the equipment I had designed to run properly. Anything else would have been a mere folly…”

“Then, one day, I was working in my study one night when I…” he looked at his hand, almost wistfully. “I cut my hand on a slide….a deep, gushing wound. Blood poured from my hand. In my pain I had not noticed the blood had gathered into my chemical pot. After I bandaged the wound, I set the pot on the burner like I did every other time….this time…it changed.”

Montague’s eyes went wide as he talked. “The chemicals….the signs….how they reacted was something unseen! I saw them combine, fuse and bubble into something unlike any other! It formed this odd colour….a mixture beyond our human senses. Documenting it was impossible! I knew I had my compound. But, I needed more fuel…”

“I found a large hog living just outside in the marshes that had died the night before. Hunters, I believe, shot it. I went out on a midnight excursion and carted the beast back to my home. I stuffed it in a large store room in the attic and drained it using some old needles. I had myself a massive supply of blood, I was for sure the compound would be complete.”

Jacob stared dully into space, drool sweeping from his mouth.

“Oh dear.” Montague paused from his story, helping Jacob up. “Relax. The medicine will wear off soon”.

“Now…where was I? Oh yes! I had the pig blood. But, as I soon discovered, the compound was…well…not yet operational for work. You see, the new compound only allowed the machines to work for quite a bit. Not enough to allow functional power to open the doorway…”

“Then, I had an epiphany! I reasoned, from basic elements on our blood, human’s blood, that was the only true source for the compound! I started off simple. Whenever I got a cut or scarring upon my arms or legs, I would gather my blood into small cups and save it for proper use later. Or, if I desperately needed it, I would inject myself with homemade needles and gather the blood by myself”

He scratched his beard, smirking. “In order to get more blood, I reasoned I could not rely on myself all the time! I needed a…how you would put it….helping hand. But, what was I to do? It would have been foolish to tromp about Redwood asking people to stick out their fingers or arms over a bucket and let me sop up the blood! Then, I had luck come to me in my time of aide! I learned the local hospital….St. Julian’s Infirmary, it is….was asking for a hand in the morgue! Sorting and burning dead corpses to prevent disease from flying about. Typhoid fever or something of the sort…”

“I was ecstatic! Such fools they were, destroying perfectly good sources of study and research! I happily went to work, putting on my white coats and trousers to take notes and cards on the dear unfortunates before me! They didn’t care what I did with half the bodies, as long as they were out of sight. All I had to do was load a wagon out back with the bloated things, cover them with bales of hay and then bring them up to the house during the night.”

“This went well at first, but as you may well know, more vaccines and medicines came out! Many diseases became preventable, so many people stopped dying! The days at the morgue became long, grueling hours as I stayed late at night, picking and taking whatever I could…”

Montague leaned back over on his chair. “I was running low on corpses from the morgue down in Redwood. The men were getting too suspicious of me, asking and paying from my hand for lifeless sacks of men. I needed more blood to keep the machine running! But, I could not use my own! I needed a source! A spring of fuel to drive the engines! And, if luck would have it, I had learned one of my oldest servants…er….Edward was his name…was suffering of heart problems during the night…”

He sighed and sipped from his drink. “So….one cool fall night, I slipped into his chambers, a pillow in hand. I found himself sleeping in his bed and, with great speed, I held the pillow over his face. Now, he struggled, believe me, he struggled! But, it was quick. He lasted only a minute. Then, he just….went to sleep….and I snuck out and did the same.”

“They believed he had went in his sleep from heart failure. I provided him a burial out among the lilies in the garden plot. Beautiful funeral. His coffin on a pedestal above the weeping maids and the butlers. He was a good man. I had nothing against him. But….”

Montague smiled. “We all make sacrifices for the greater good. We all must.”

“Getting him to the machine was easy enough! Days before I built a secret trapdoor beneath the hidden plot I had dug. Thus, when we lowered his coffin, it would fall through the trapdoor and into the arms of the machine. Thus, I was able to carry out my work on him, without being discovered by the servants.”

Montague got up and paced the room, shrugging. “But…things got complicated. The gas we needed for the engines failed…..almost murdered half the men under my wing….and invariably old Edward’s corpse ran dry….we got almost get the doorway open….but, like the dreams I…I mean…we…had of opening it….it faded away before us….a glimpse at the world we could never see…”

A tear seemed to roll down Montague’s cheek. He wiped it off and shook his head. “I had to do something. Time I feared was running out and I needed to finish my works. A few weeks before you came here...an idea entered my head…”

“What if? I asked myself “I was able to gather many people together? Lure people into my presence?  Then, I could collect my fuel sources and complete a solution to last me enough time to open the doorway! But how? How could I?”

He gave a wicked smirk at Jacob, kneeling down to poke the fire in the boiler. “I learned the tunnels from my sewer lines ran out into caves above Redwood. And I also learned I could direct the failed gas product into these tunnels and let the vapors disperse over town! So I set about it in secret! I set up special pipelines to run below the sewers and into the caves. I installed fans from the decontamination chambers and cooling sections of the machine to disperse the poisonous gas when ready”

He sat back down, sipping from the wine. “Are you sure you don’t want any of this, Jacob? It helps dull the medicine…”

Jacob didn’t respond. He just stared at him with glassy eyes.

“Well, if you are sure” Montague set the glass down and looked out the window. The sun was rising just above Redwood. The streets were still empty as ever. No birds. No deer. No hogs. No horses. No people. The faint shadow of a toppled carriage lay in the path over the valley.

“It was midnight when everything set into motion. My servants I sent out into town to gather food and supplies, they were foolish enough to listen. The gas- that black-red cloud settled upon the town like a silent visitor….there was no screaming…no yelling….just silence…nothing but the wind blowing into the corroding houses…”

Montague gave a low pause and set his head in his hands. “It was two days later did I decide to go out and gather my flock to my pens. The streets were bare. The timbers of the houses burnt and corroded. People lay in alleys and storehouses, grasping their blue throats and laying in sprawls in the daylight. It was not easy to cart them all up, so I had to bring them back trips at a time and shovel them down those chutes I had installed to dispose them into the line. The line was built days before I set my plan into motion. The servants knew nothing, nor did the engineers. I told some white lies here and there, paid more to keep their mouths quiet and to hang their heads low”

“And then….” He pointed at Jacob. “You came here”. He chuckled a bit.  “Truth be told, I had an idea of luring you here to drug you and feed you down the line…but…you…you…”

“You had such passion! Unlike anything I had ever seen! It was only that when I was sampling the blood from your arm that I realized what a fool I was! Why kill of a possible companion on whom we could embark upon? I planned to tell you the secrets soon…but, I guess when you heard me dumping more subjects from the storeroom…you….haha…found it yourself”

Jacob wanted to speak. He wanted to shout. To scream. To yell. But alas, he could not.

“Now, I offer you a chance, Jacob. To join me! Together, we can embark on this new excursion of science! Together, you and I, we may change the world! Steer it upon a new era!”

Jacob didn’t answer. His head slumped to his left elbow and he let out a gurgle.

Montague sighed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a moist cloth. Jacob would be like this for a bit. The laudanum would be in effect for hours, he was afraid.

He held the cloth to Jacob’s mouth and nose, watching him breath in the chloroform. His breathing became slower…and slower…and slower… and…

Jacob’s eyes closed. His head moved forward, hanging limply over his chest.

“Sleep well. Jacob.” Montague snickered. “You will need it”

As he walked out of the room, he gave a thought. What if Jacob tried to flee? What if he called the local mainland authorities?  What would become of them?

Ah well. Montague thought as he shuffled back to his room.

The machine always needed more fuel.

……………………………………………………………………….

Part 6:  OR ELSE YOU SHALL BECOME THE BEAST’S NEXT FEED.

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The sudden crashing woke Jacob from his slumber. It started low at first, but it became louder and louder. The electric lights of the manor dimmed and crackled for a moment before returning to normal.

“Montague…?” Jacob’s head felt heavy as he lifted it off the pillow. The medicine was wearing off, but had lasting percussions on his body. His vision was clouding and his limbs were sore.

The room was empty, pale lit by the moonlight from the window.  Montague was gone. The madman, the murderer of the innocents, had slipped away like the snake had done after Eve in the garden. Went back to his damned machine probably.

Jacob swung his legs over to the edge of the bed. Standing up proved a challenge. He felt as if he was being weighed down by concrete blocks attached to his back.

Grunting and straining, Jacob managed to balance himself upon his two feet. The room was spinning, geometric shapes flashed before his eyes. Stumbling, he latched onto the bedpost.

A cane, possibly one belonged to one of the late servants, was in a small wastebasket beside the bed. Jacob quickly grasped it, using to balance himself. The alarm clock read 12:34 on the small bedside dressing table.

“God…” Jacob held his head. “How long was I unconscious? Surely a few hours, I hope”

Jacob, using the cane as a sensor, moved down the darkened room.  He could still feel the house gently rock side to side. The machine was active. It was growing stronger.

“I have to get back into that machine…..but how?” Jacob thought, pushing open the door. The hallway was lit surprisingly, but plagued by sudden blackouts. A low hum echoed from somewhere in the house.

Jacob limped down the hall, his cane making a dull echoing thud as it hit the rug. He walked past rooms, observing the signs on the doors.

“LIBRARY”

“WINE CELLAR”

“SERVANT’S QUARTERS”

“STUDY”

That was it! The study had one of those secret entrances! If Jacob could access it and head down into the machine, he could find Montague!

He turned quickly and, using his cane, pushed open the study door. The room was loud surprisingly and very hot. No lights were on in the room, moonlight casted shadows across the walls.
Steam poured from the cracks of the bookshelf amidst the sound of rattling machinery. The passage was blocked! Jacob would get scalded to death if he dared open the door!

“Damn!” Jacob said, stumbling around the room. “There had to be another way!”

He looked around, only seeing the desk. The cover, once locked, was open. Albeit slightly ajar. Montague was here, probably looking over notes or old documents.

Jacob walked over to it, hoping to find some answers to his troubles. Maybe a key to a hidden door. Or a passage hidden somewhere.

His hands brushed through books and papers. Most were just old files on machinery costs or ancient alchemy books-pages dog-eared and checked with tiny slips of string.

Then, his hand hit a pale green book, knocking it off the desk. It fell to the floor, opening and spilling the contents. Notes and charts scattered across the floor. One in particular was folded up, unfolding as it hit the floor.

Jacob picked it up and looked it over. It was a drawing of the manor, several points of interest were marked off with red blotches. They were markers to different points of access in the machine. At the bottom of the map was a picture of the machine, arrows leading from the markers to the respected locations.
He looked at the map and gave a devilish smile. Now he had access back to the machine. And he knew just where to start

Jacob turned out of the study, walking down the hall, limping as he felt the medicine’s side-effects take hold.

He turned to his left and faced a large wooden oak door, brass handles formed the rings in the center. The sound of machinery was getting louder by the second. The lights dimmed and flickered on and off. The machine was in full swing by now.

With a heavy grunt, Jacob pushed open the door, hearing it crash against the wall

Jacob looked around the room. It was clearly Montague’s bedroom. One could tell by the vast amount of luxuries within the small room. A fine marble and pine desk stood below a bay window, overlooking the small row of forest before it gave way into the coast.  The desk was covered in blank stacks of papers and empty inkwells.

Against the wall was a large canopy-covered bed. Jacob could see the canopy extended into the ceiling. The walls were covered in tapestries and paintings, each more exotic and beautiful then the last. Swinging lightly in the center was a candle chandelier, candles aglow in the dark room, casting small rays into the corners. In each corner, Jacob noticed, were 4 individual white pedestals, each topped with a small silver orb.

Jacob looked at the map and nodded. He moved to the first pedestal in the left corner and grasped the small orb, turning it slowly to the left. As he did, he could hear the faint ticking of clockwork gears with in the wall.

There was a low clunking sound and, pushed by a clockwork release mechanism, a part of the ceiling fell open. Following it was a small wooden staircase, landing with a thump on the carpeted floor. A cloud of dust followed suit.

Jacob, using the cane for leverage, pulled himself up the steps. Above was a small room, apparently built in just for the support of the manor. It was not unlike Montague to have repurposed this secret room as a control room to the machine.

Inside the small room was a small set of machinery, most notable was a winch in which a rope coiled about the spool, leading to a series of cables hanging from the ceiling, which rejoined and then split to connect to the canopy of the bed. It was like if someone started the winch, they could lift the bed.

Jacob reviewed the small cluster of machinery before him. A simple electric motor to spin the wheels which in turn would crank the winch to lift the bed.

Jacob grabbed the lever and pulled it forward once, then back again and forward again. The light on the control system flashed green to red and green again. There was a dull cackle of electric circuits and the motor slowly spun to life. The wheels spun like clockwork, turning the winch. The bed seemed to rise up into the attic as the cables, hanging so precariously, did their best to hold the massive bed up.

There was a loud clang and the motor stopped. The bed had now reached halfway up into the attic, swinging eerily back and forth.

“I hope the map was right….” Jacob turned and ducked his head down from the crawlspace, fearing he would have been wrong.

He wasn’t.

Underneath the bed was a large wooden board, covering up some secret entrance to the machinery below. The ticking of metal and the hiss of steam could be heard from below.

Jacob hurried down the steps and over to the board. Grasping it with all the might he had, he picked up the wooden plank and tossed it over. It landed with a loud crash as it struck the floor.

Under the board was a ladder, extending deep into the abyss below. Strange flashes of light burst from the tunnel. Brilliant white flashes of hot light. A loud bang and the sound of roaring machinery followed.

“The descent begins…” Jacob thought to himself as he positioned himself on the ladder, hearing it creak as his shoes touch the rods. He gulped and shivered, swallowing back his fear.

Slowly, he began to clamber down the ladder, feeling it shake lightly. The candles from above gave Jacob enough light to see where he was going. He climbed a foot down, smelling an odor of oil and some other strange scents he couldn’t place. Steam hissed from below, like snakes waiting for Jacob to land.

As he climbed down two more feet, the house began to shake again. He looked up, grasping the rungs of the ladder and noticed the bed above him swinging faster on the cable. There was a distant snap, a loud crash of the bed hitting the floor and Jacob was now sealed in. Alone and in the dark tunnel.

He stood there for a minute, hearing the loudening sound of machinery and crashing pistons. The chamber was freezing cold, Jacob could feel his breath freeze on the lungs.

“Keep calm, Jacob….just hold on and keep your bearings….this will be fine….it will be fine…”

Jacob shivered as he began to descend again. The ladder creaked and groaned under his weight. The walls turned from carved out rock to a more sturdy brick layering. The room became a bit brighter as Jacob climbed past lanterns and torches hanging from the walls. After a few more feet, Jacob felt the cool solid steel under his shoes. He let go of the ladder and looked about to his location.

He was in a hallway. A white hallway, blood stains dragged across the floor. The only source of light was from the far end of the hall. A sign above the circular ladder chute read:

“ENTRANCE 7: COMPOUND DISTILLING TO INNER CORE.

Jacob looked around and noted the blood on the floor. He felt a bit sick. Not because of the amount of it, but because he was getting used to see it. He gulped down the bile in the back of his throat and shuffled forward.

He leaned his head cautiously out the door, hoping to not to be caught by Montague. No one was around, aside from the massive machinery beside the catwalk.

The machinery seemed to be designed for pumping, hoses and tubes running between pistons and tanks. A smell of hot blood and carbon filled the room. The room was a bright orange from the mix of lanterns and furnaces.

Jacob noticed a set of large pipes, about the size of he was, piled along the catwalk. He also noticed the spinning set of cogwheels just beside the machinery. They seemed to be powering the pumps sending out the vile mixture across the machine.
Sensing an attempt of sabotage, Jacob gave the pipes a swift kick, knocking the bottom one of the pile free. The pipes clanged free and rolled down the catwalk, dropping from the side into the cogwheels.

At first, nothing. Jacob watched the pipes slide between the wildly-spinning cogs. He heard a distant rattle at first and then a loud explosion of steel grinding and churning. Following was the sound of pipes, clogged and full, bursting open and liquid splashing onto the floor

The cogs shifted a few times before crashing to a halt. Steam poured from the burst pipes. Control lights flashed off as he heard the sound of bubbling and gurgling from the damaged pumps.

Jacob knew he didn’t stop Montague just yet. He probably had more of the compound being pumped about the machine. This was just a mere pause in the machine. Jacob knew it could be fixed. It would get up soon again.

That is, unless Jacob got to work.

With a quick smile, Jacob ran over the bridging catwalk, hearing the distant clatter of damaged equipment falling away. He hurried out the door and stumbled down the corridor.

Jacob’s plan was to lure Montague out by damaging the vital parts of the machine. If it didn’t work, he could have at least dealt a severe blow to the plan.

The next room Jacob found was the Temperature Controlling. This was the part of the machine, Jacob reasoned, that made sure everything was at a safe condition. Too much heat would overheat the water in the boilers, causing them burst. Freezing conditions would freeze the machinery and severely damage the pumps and tanks within.

Jacob looked about the room. A large central chamber filled with regulator systems and pipes running across the ceiling. At the center of the chamber was a small control system, dotted with switching boards and valves, all designed to open the tanks and control what liquids came out.

“If I heat up this part of the machine, I could be able to damage most of the pressure systems. And boil myself alive in the process…”

Jacob really should control his snarky thoughts. It was that type of fear that would prevent him from stopping Montague.

He grabbed a valve in his hand and turned it slowly, hearing the sound of the tank doors opening. The heating liquid- a mixture of oil and a type of biofuel- would spill into the central furnaces and fuel them enough to heat the machine. Jacob turned the valve a bit faster, hearing the liquid slosh through the pipes.

The sound of the tank doors opening echoed through the chamber. The heating compound spilled out into the pipes and sloshed away over Jacob’s head.

He looked over at the opposite control panel. This one controlled the other complex of the machine. Jacob had an idea. If he froze one side of the machine, it could deal enough damage to at least stop the activity.

He flicked a few switches on the control board for good measure and began to turn the draining valve. The coolant compound was water and some of Montague’s old alchemy experiments mixed together and kept at an extremely cold temperature.

Jacob spun the valve as fast as he could, feeling the heat rise in the room. He heard the doors open and saw the coolant rushing through the pipes.

As soon as he did, he quickly ran out of the room, hurrying to get to the exit.

The heat was rising steadily. A thin mist covered the catwalks and walkways of the many hallways and spaces of the monstrous machine. Jacob ran though the corridors and tunnels, searching for any sign of an exit.

One of the boilers was filled with water as he past it.  The water inside was becoming steam. The steam pressure was building slower and slower and slower until….

There was a horrific bang as the boilers burst open, spewing scalding hot steam. Cogs screeched to a stop as shrapnel jammed into them. Loud crashes of machinery bursting or stopping echoed through the room.

Jacob ran faster, sweat dripping from his brow. The machine was near death, a fatal blow to its heart! Ahead, Jacob could see a large marked door reading: “EXIT TO INNER CORE”

Jacob ran faster and faster, hearing the awful sounds of destruction behind him. He pushed open the door, greeted by a significantly cold blast of air to his face.

The door slid shut behind him as he stopped, staring at the scene around him.

Rivers of the portal compound were frozen in mid-stream as they lay in silent arches from their burst tanks and pipes. The air in the room was colder than he had expected. The coolant must have been fast-acting to keep the compound in stable condition.
Jacob smiled a bit, knowing he had now really dealt a crippling blow to the machine. He walked a bit forward, searching for any control rooms to contact help in or find an exit space to…

There was a brilliant flash of white that blinded Jacob for a minute or two. The sound of clanking machinery and a strange buzz of electricity. It seemed to be coming from the main hall. To where the inner core control was.

Jacob stumbled along the freezing room, avoiding any of the frozen compound that pooled around the catwalk. What was going on? Surely the machine would have been destroyed by now.

He followed the sounds through the bitter cold, until he arrived at a large steel door. The sounds echoed from within the large chamber. Jacob took a final breath and pulled open the door.

His mouth agape, his eyes wide and his heart stopped at what he saw.

Three huge steel pillars, each topped with a strange metal construct, stood around a large clockwork contraption. The pillars were radiating columns of white light into the tip of the contraption, causing a large ball of light to form. Pipes filled with the portal compound, possibly from excess tanks, surged into the pillars. Montague stood…no….flew over the contraption. He saw Jacob and gave a wicked sneer.

“Oh, Jacob….” He said, seemingly enchanted by his machine. “Did not your little rampage do anything?”

“Montague…” Jacob stepped forward, feeling a great weight of some sort lift off him. He felt a bit lighter. “What…what have you done…?”

“What I always dreamed of Jacob….” Montague hovered a bit higher. “Completed the impossible…”

“At what cost though? All those people…”

Montague sighed sadly and shook his head. “That is what separates us, Jacob…the needs to go farther…’

“What? What are you getting at, you murdering old…” Jacob stopped mid-sentence. The sphere of light let out a large pop and Jacob sailed back onto his knees.

“A brilliant, true scientist…goes to the greater edge of his morals and beliefs to achieve a goal….I took the path to complete my great work…”

“Murder is not the solution….”

‘Murder?! Jacob, it was a peaceful death! Do you think I crept into each house and bludgeoned them all to death with a club? No! I’m not some animal! They died together in only a few seconds! As a family! As one! No pain! No suffering! I simply just put them to a well-deserved rest…’

As he said this, the ball of light began to grow. Jacob could see odd shapes forming within. Montague smiled wider.

“Yes! Yes! It is opening! The doorway is opening!”

Jacob looked at Montague and sneered. This “man of ethics”, this “man of science…”….nothing but a mere murderer! A man who cast his clouds of death among the innocent people to achieve his own desires!

Jacob stood on his knees, ignoring the blinding light. The ball of light began to grow, the shapes more vivid. A black inky void appeared in the top of the portal, lit by only small gleams of light.

“Yes…I can see it….the stars…the skies…I can finally see it…” Montague cooed madly over his machine, reaching out to touch the ball of light.

Jacob ran over to him, in a burst of energy from within his chest. He slammed into Monatgue, sending him spiraling of his perch. The man crashed to the ground, leaving Jacob hovering in his place.

Jacob turned his head and gasped at what he could see. A large desert land….under a strange black-purple night, dotted with twinkling stars and galaxies. Two red moons sailed above him. It was beautiful…unlike anything he had ever seen.

Then, he felt a sharp pain in his arm. Blood trickling down his arm…

He glanced over, Montague holding a knife in his arm. His face was filled with a mad glare, a deep panic and a crazed joy all at once.

“Move, you damned fool! I am the one who shall see it finished!”

He pushed Jacob out of the way, sneering as he stood back on his perch. The portal was almost open now. The desert land was almost visible through the silky white curtain of light.
Jacob growled and, ignoring the pain in his fit of rage, took the knife from his shoulder. He ripped the handkerchief off from his neck and tied it snugly around the wound. He grabbed the knife and looked at Montague and the portal engine in front.

Jacob took the knife and tossed it, watching it sail straight into the machine’s gears. There was a low splintering screech as the gears and pistons jammed by the blade. The portal burst open in a curtain of light! Montague laughed and laughed as he was enveloped into the portal’s light.

The man felt warm for a minute as the light overtook him. He opened his eyes and saw the miles long desert and night around him. Monatgue smiled back at Jacob and laughed insanely. His eyes were bloodshot and wild, his brown hair becoming white as he stood in the deep sand.

“It’s beautiful, Jacob! Everything I have ever done has lead up to this! It’s mine! All mine!”

Then, there was a low screech and the portal light began to fade. Jacob could see the portal closing around him. Montague didn’t.

With one last leap of energy, Jacob leapt out from the portal, landing on his knees on the chamber floor below. The portal engine sparked and sputtered as it rattled and clanked apart.

Montague’s laugh, shrill and mad, echoed throughout the chamber. The portal light began to flash wildly on and off! Electric currents shot out of the portal, striking machinery and cables and pipes in all directions! Explosions roared throughout the machine. Clattering and banging and roaring from every opening!

Jacob gulped and ran to the ladder at the side of the chamber, looking back to see Montague standing at the edge of the portal.

His eyes were now bloodshot red. His hair now a brilliant white. His body stretched and warped into a tall, limbering creature. His laugh was now louder and shriller. The portal flashed open and closed, Montague changing with every time.

Jacob began to climb the ladder, hearing the machine collapse around him. He was halfway up when the blinding light over took him.

The portal finally collapsed. In a wave of white light and a roar of thunder, it shut. As it shut, it fired off a great ball of energy across the chamber. Machinery burst into flames, the pillars surrounding the portal collapsed, spewing the dangerous compound. Montague’s laughter was replaced by the screech of metal.

As Jacob felt the blinding light overtake his senses, he could swear he could feel the dust of the desert blow across his face.

……………………………………………………………………………………..

“Jacob? ‘Ey, lad?”

Jacob woke up, noticing the two people standing over his cot.

It was Henry and a sailor from the Navy. Both were looking at him in confused, worried manner.

“Wh…Where am I?”

Henry cracked a smile. “The Presidential Suite back at the White House, lad” he said before bursting into laughter. The sailor simply rolled his eyes and looked sharply at Henry.

“You’re back on the Mary Belle, Jacob” Henry smiled and sat down on the chair. “We picked you up not only two hours ago”

“What happened?”

The sailor spoke up, looking directly at Jacob. “We found you on the beach of Redwood Island after some of the fishermen saw an explosion happen during the night. My men and I came to investigate and get any survivors and so far, you are the only one…”

Jacob nodded and looked down. “No sign of that Montague fellow?”

“Afraid not. In fact, we found his entire manor up in flames when we got there”

Henry shrugged and whispered to Jacob. “Told you that man was trouble…”

Jacob didn’t answer. He kept silent.

“Do you mind if we question you? After you are done healing, of course” The man nodded and adjusted his cap. “Maybe you could give us some details on what happened over the past days…”

Jacob nodded quickly. “Yes! I can give you what I can though…”

The two men nodded, Henry pouring a tin cup of coffee for Jacob.

“Drink this, Jacob. It will perk your spirits a bit…”

“Thank you Henry….can you two please let me rest? My head is starting to affect me…”

“Of course’ The two men got up and walked out of the cabin. Through the crack of the door, Jacob could see the smoking remains of Redwood Island, thick black clouds of smoke loomed over the island.

As soon as the door closed, Jacob climbed out of bed and walked slowly over to the table. His knapsack was there, closed with a leather buckle. He opened it and sighed.

He took out a large brown book, stuffed with notes and files. It was one of Montague’s old research journals. Jacob had taken it during his first days there, hoping to read from it. He gingerly opened the book and flipped through.

The pages were stained with splotches of blood. Thick red globes of the fluid coated pages and notes like spilled ink. Word were covered entirely, charts and drawings gone.

At the end of the book was a statement that Jacob now understood.

“IT IS OUR MOST NOBLE DUTY TO GIVE OURSELVES TO THE NAME OF SCIENTIFC ADVANCEMENT. NO MATTER AT WHAT COST”

Jacob sighed and closed the book, limping over to the furnace.
Jacob was going to keep the world from finding this. No matter how great the project seemed, it was twisted and vile. Science wasn’t just about greed and fame and recognition. It was about furthering humanity for the better.

But, at one point, Montague had lost sight of that, Jacob thought to himself. A shame. A real damned shame.

He opened the furnace door and slid the book inside, watching the cover and pages ignite on the hot coals. The book fell inside and became aflame, burning quickly inside the cast iron stove.

Drops of scarlet red fell from the pages, landing on Jacob’s shoes.

But he didn’t care anymore.
Montague's Machine (Part 2)
Picking from up where Part 1 left off, this final selection tells us the answers to the mystery surrounding Redwood, Montague and the massive machine hidden beneath his manor. I hope you enjoyed this little tale and I wish to hear what you have thought!
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PART 1: OF STEAM AND THE WHEEL, BURIED UNDER THE SOIL
………………………………………………………………….
Jacob sighed as the cold north wind tugged at his hat, nipping at his face like small frozen daggers. The clouds above were a churning dark vortex, spinning into a mesmerizing pattern of grey dark clouds and a thick fog.

The S.S. MARY BELLE was holding up surprisingly well. The small ship rocked calmly on the icy waters. She was an old fishing ship, used for mainly catching cod for the state of Maine. Built in 1896, the ship had first been used as simple passenger travel, but the harbor had purchased her as a vessel for their fleet and she was put to work hauling fish and other sea-life for her days.

Jacob walked back into the cabin. A small room with only the barest furnishings. A small bed, adorn in what could be cleaner sheets, a small desk with one of those new electric lamps and an old coal heater in the corner.

Wasn’t luxury like on the new steamers, but Jacob could not care very much of his furnishings.

He recalled his wanting and longings to head to Redwood Island ever since he joined the University. He had heard such great things from professors and colleagues. The story of a man they called Montague Norman Stein and his strange fantastical works.

“A genius…” his professor told him during lunch at the tavern. “A true Renaissance man. A natural-born fellow….I hear he is from London or Wales. I met him before during a meeting at Buffalo back in 1912”

“Really?” Jacob had spoken, sipping at his drink. “What was he like?”

“Brilliant man, yet so…so….” The man stumbled to find the right word. “So…normal….!”

“Normal?”

“Yes, yes, he was like you or me! He wore simple clothing and drank only the common drinks! No champagne or wines from Europe! Just simple old ale and good cheer around!”

Jacob was stunned. Normally he had expected a man of such refined culture to be prestigious, yet he sounded like a common man. He indeed sounded quite interesting to meet, this Montague fellow.

“Where can I find him? Somewhere in France? A school in Britain?”

“No!” The professor laughed. “I heard tale he lives in an island off the coast of Maine! Moved there for…. “Better research opportunities and such…” he said.”

“What is his field, exactly?”

“Alchemy.”

“Alchemy?”

“Yes! The man has several books published on the stuff. He wrote a 68-page essay upon the idea that one can turn water into gold using nothing more than some formulas and equations! If I could do that, I would buy my own steam-ship and travel the world with my fortunes!”

“Anything else? Anything more…er…typical?”

“Yes. He loves machinery. Fascinated by gears, cogwheels and pistons and steam! Says his father worked as a machinist back in London in 1860. He must have fallen in love with the craft.”

“Didn’t he invent a new type of power source?”

“I am not sure, Jacob. He keeps everything under lock and key in that manor of his on Redwood Island”

Jacob sipped his drink. The liquor was strong and hard. “Could it be possible to meet Montague?”

“Surprisingly, yes!”

“Really?”

“The man loves visitors! He enjoys showing people his works and whatnot. I say, what would be the point of creating with no one to create it for?”

Jacob nodded to the man’s words. In his head, the idea of meeting this mysterious fellow of science was growing in fruition. If he could gain an invitation, it just may work out.

And he sent a letter on the date of November 25th, 1916. Sealed with a red ink he gave it to the post to send the parcel on its way.

December 8th did he receive a response! How eager was he to, with trembling hands, open the letter and read its contents!

To make a long letter short, Montague said yes! “Come when you can!” He wrote. “I enclose the coordinates in case you need them!”

True to his word was a map with the island marked off by a black ink circle just west of the coast of Maine. It was in distance to see the church steeples of the village on the coast.

Now, Jacob knew the hardest part was commandeering passage to Redwood Island. He was not some rich merchant with his own vessel or even a man to pay for a steamboat going a mile or two!

He searched the docks for what seemed to be a fortnight and more, until he met a man of grey hair and yellow rain-slickers, smoking a pipe and holding a fishing pole in his left and a bucket of cod in the right.

He said his name was Henry Rodrick: sole captain of the S.S. MARY BELLE. He was a simple man, fished for profit in the day and fished for fun at night. Rodrick lived in the MARY BELLE too. “It is my home and my business all in one!” He said with a laugh as he and Jacob sat inside the cabin.

It was a bit of work, but Jacob had convinced Henry to transport him to Redwood Island. He would pay him 1 dollar and 35 cents for passage across the coast.

Henry agreed, but had only haggled up from the original price of 75 cents. He claimed that he had seen and heard odd things around the islands in the past few months.

“I recall…” Henry said before they disembarked to the island. “I was fishing for some old bluefish and cod when I heard this magnificent roar! It sounded like the noise a furnace would make when it was clogged with dust and coal, but much louder”

“Really?”

“Indeed! Then, a great wave of smoke and smog poured out into the heavens like God’s holy fire! It covered the ocean and the island in some curtain of foul-smelling gas…”

“What happened?”

“I ran inside and took shelter! I believed an explosion went off in the town. I thought my ship would burn and sink into the briny depths, haha!”

“Then what did you do? What occurred?”

“The smoke cleared about a quarter past 4. The island was still standing as I saw from my cabin windows. I turned my ship around and headed back to port, whereas I told the constable the incident. He called me a looney fisherman and said it was just some smog from the factory mixing with some mist rising from the sea!”

Henry then shot Jacob a glare. “I tell you…something very wrong is occurring on that devilish isle…”

“What makes you say to that?”

“Normally the little town would have sent some lumber or fish out to us…but now….”
“What?”

“The letters, the lumber, everything stopped coming!”

“Why? A plague?” Jacob said in this as polite as he could. He wished to say it in a sarcastic tone but his manners got to him first.

“No. There have never been plagues so big on Redwood. Sure, a chicken pox in one home or the mumps for another, but nothing ever shut down the trade!”

“Has anyone gone to investigate?”

“We have tried. But ports are closed off; barricaded by some of the cargo vessels! And there are no other ports for proper docking. Nothing but muddy rivers and forests.”

Jacob looked up at the sky. Thick grey clouds loomed silently over the horizon. A bitter cold wind blew across the ocean.

“Shall we get going, Mister Greenbeck?”

“Yes.” Jacob glanced back to Henry, who was removing the ship’s lines from the pier. “Before the weather worsens.”

Jacob sighed. And now here they were. Henry was in the cabin in front, sipping from a flask of rum.

“Care for a drink, Jacob?” He said, handing him the flask. “Warms your bones on a day like this”

“No thank you…” Jacob shook his head. “I wish to remain sober for my meeting”

“May I ask, whom is the fellow you will be meeting?”

“Montague Norman Stein. He is an alchemist and a scientist”

“Oh! That man? I met him while I was getting supper at the local tavern”

“What was he like?”

“Odd fellow. He was quiet and was looking about like an owl when it sees a field rat.”

“Well, most people are like that…”

“He had some odd journal….from what I saw it held diagrams of machines and strange symbols. I think I saw blood on it…”
“Blood?”

“Yes. Not dots, spatters of it! Streaks of it dotting the cover, the spine was streaked with crimson. He looked like he was trying to clean it off….hiding it in his coat’s pocket…”

“Could be anything!”
“Like what?”

“Paint! Ink!”

“If you take my advice, you better be careful. I mean, a foreigner comes down here, lives alone and never talks to anyone? Would not surprise me if he turned out be some madman with a taste of the blood of fellow man…”

“You know, you make him sound him like some….mad criminal!”

Henry turned his head back towards Jacob, a confused glance on his face.

“Well…he seems like it”

“What do you mean?’

“He lives on that crazy manor upon on the hillsides! Rumor is he came from a mental home in lower London!”

“Rumors! Foolish rumors!”

“Have you met the man? He’s a loon! Studies alchemy? More like toying around with old world magic nonsense!”

“Alchemy is indeed a well-respected knowledge! Why, my grandfather told me without it, we would be living in the Stone Age! Eating raw meats and drinking sludge!”

“I am saying that this Montague fellow is not what he should seem….”

“He’s a well-known and respected scientist! At least show some respect!”

Henry growled and turned back to his post. “If anything happens….I have a telegram…one of those new ones….in my cabin. And I know that every house in Redwood has one...”

“What are you getting at?”

“If anything is to happen…contact me. I will come with the local constables and some added help from some of the workmen”

“Yes. I would love to be rescued from spending time with such a respected mind…”

“If you wish to run your tongue, speak to the cod in the nets. They have the mind the same as you”

Jacob sighed. “Fine. I’ll talk with the fish. More intelligent creatures…”
He got up, kicking the wall in a fit. Then, he walked outside onto the deck.

It was pouring heavily. Thick bits of ice from the hail coasted by, crashing into one another like children playing a game. One not looking where they were going and hitting the other.

Jacob noticed the lifeboat hanging from its derricks on the eastern side of the deck. Henry said he never had use for it; the MARY BELLE had been through worse, he had told Jacob.

“If that stupid fishmonger just wants to keep arguing …” Jacob said, walking over to the boat. “He can just do it himself.”

Jacob climbed carefully into the lifeboat, grabbing a pair of oars from the small crate besides the railing.

Careful not to make a noise, Jacob slowly undid the ropes holding the lifeboat to the ship. The first one was undone; the boat tilted sharply forward. Then, the second one….

The boat dropped quickly, hitting the water with a loud splash. Jacob glanced up, hoping Henry did not notice.

He didn’t. The cabin door stayed shut.

“Thank God…” Jacob grabbed the oars and began to push backwards, moving himself out of the way of the MARY BELLE.

A thick fog was rolling in, so Jacob was having a bit of trouble navigating. He was never very good at sailing, to be honest. His uncle was one during the Civil War, his mother had told him. Piloting cargo vessels of supplies to Union forces. One time she had told him about how he was captured by Confederates and held in a ship for 6 days until he managed to overpower the crew and navigate home. All in the course of a raging Nor’easter.

Jacob never really believed it.

He found the boat had a small torch-lantern on the bow. He pulled some matches from his coat-pockets and lit the wick inside, turning the gas valve to brighten it.

The light did help. Jacob could at lease see about a foot in front of him. The MARY BELLE was gone, he could see. But Jacob could care less.

“Now….” He said, pulling out a small map, stained with coffee and ink strokes “Where is Redwood…?”

Jacob glanced for some common landmarks. Rock formation? Building out in the horizon?

No. None of it worked. Jacob seemed to be alone on the cold, stormy  bay.
“So….if I am in the north….follow the stars….” Then, Jacob smelled something. “What is that smell? Smells like…smoke?”

The air was laden with a heavy scent of smoke. Smoke that came from smokestacks in factories. Must be a factory around here….

“A smell of smoke…” Jacob recalled what Henry had said. “Redwood must be near…”

Following the scent, he traveled towards the origin. The waves were choppy, the winds were high and the air was bitter cold.

Then, he saw something through the fog. A large square shape looming above the coast. A small yellow glow flickered on the upper part of the figure.

“Montague’s…” Jacob growled as he pushed his way through the freezing waters. The wind pushed at him fiercely, beckoning to turn him away.

Finally after what seemed to be hours of rowing, Jacob felt the boat surge and there was a low thump. The light showed a set of trees and bushes along the muddy land.

He was here.

“Thank God! At last! At last!”
Jacob leapt from the boat, tugging it to shore. The ground was covered in muddy pools of water that were filling up to his kneecaps and it didn’t seem to stop.

He saw a small valley to the south of him. Below was a small set of rooftops and streetlights. At the far end was a large set of piers and docked ships. Above the valley was a large, lavish manor. A light was on in the upper floors.

Jacob sighed and pushed his way forward through the marsh. The winds tugged through the trees, the pools of murky water piling up around him.

Beneath his feet, Jacob could swear he heard a low rumble, as if the ground was moving.

But he kept walking. The rumbling soon died out.

Above him, the moon was full. The earth was silent, but the sound of a low roar rumbled from far away.

………………………………………………………………….

Part 2:  THE COLD DAMP DARKNESS, WHERE ONCE WE DID TOIL

………………………………………………………………….

“I must say, my dear Jacob. You seem quite the intellect”

“Oh, I just study here and there between courses. Nothing special…”

Montague laughed, almost spilling his drink. “Oh, come now! I have never met such a young fellow with such…compassion for sciences before!”

Montague’s manor was quite large. The room, the atrium as he called it, was a great circular chamber. A fireplace, as large as the windows, sat in front of them, a fire roaring. A pot hung from a hook mounted within the fireplace wall with steam rising from it.  A pair of wooden doors, stationed at the east and west sides of the room, stood like menacing giants looking down upon the two.

“Mister Montague…sir…how long have you lived here?”

“About ….let me see….8 years, I suppose?”

“Why?”

“Well, London is indeed quite wonderful, but the city life never suited me. I grew up in the country with my family. They were wealthy people and I received schooling at home from my mother. When I learned about property opening in America after the Civil War was about 1 year from being over and left to history, I decided to go upon instinct and start a new life here. But, until the economy straightened, there were unable to get my documents until 1908! Would you believe it? But it was worth it, I say to you, it was worth it all.”

“What is it like? Being out here on this island and all?”

“Marvelous!” Montague smiled. “Fresh coastal air. Glorious view of the bay. And such nice people!”

“Speaking of people….”

“What? Is all well, my dear boy?”

“Uh….a “friend” of mine said Redwood closed its ports and stopped all contact. Is there a reason?”

“Oh yes!” Montague set his drink down, straightening his coat. “Redwood holds these yearly spiritual retreats. They go out into the woods and sing and play and feast and pray. Like a large family picnic! My butlers and servants went to this one, all carrying baskets of food and bibles and psalm books! That’s why the town is quiet. They are simply just staying private and spending more time with nature and the Good Lord that is all!”

Jacob smiled, reminding himself to tell Henry that when he left on Sunday. “So…I heard you are working on new things?”

Montague’s eyes lit up! “Oh yes! Indeed I have! All sorts of machinery and inventions!”

“Anything with alchemy?”

“Of course! See, I learned alchemy from an old book I found in my manor’s library. Fascinating stuff! Compounds changing into other compounds! Symbols of ancient times left for the modern man to break its code”

“Uh…I fear I do not understand…”

“See, my dear Jacob, it is like this. Say, I have about 8 pounds of metal, All rusting and cluttered up. And say, I found a way to make it into gold! The forerunners of this art originally created alchemy for that purpose if you did not know!”

“Anything else it could do?”

“Alchemy could be used in anything! Medicine, even! Why, I am working on a way to convert water into blood! Do you know how many lives it could save?”

“Water to blood? How is that possible?”

“Alchemy and science! Go hand in hand like war and gunpowder, pigs and meat and money and banks!”

Jacob was surprised. The man was brilliant…but….something seemed off. He seemed like a fanatic!

“Mister Montague….”

“Why, dear Jacob, I have created something incredible with my studies!”

“Incredible?”

“Yes! Yes! Something incredible while I was working one day”

“What is it?”

Montague looked at him, beckoning him up and to follow him. Jacob followed him, watching as he searched the halls and passages for something.

After a bit of walking, they reached a room. In the room was only a window overlooking the bay and the local lighthouse and an old oak bookcase. The room seemed clean though, a smell of oil and smoke rising from the vents.

“Is this the guest room?” Jacob said, hoping to catch a laugh from the man’s expressionless face.

“No.” Montague said. “This room is much more important…”

Montague walked over to the bookcase. He laid his palm against the sides and pushed it, grunting as he did so.

The bookcase, as if on a rail or some sort, slid away, revealing a large steel door in its place. The door had a large chain and lock on it, preventing anyone from opening it.

“A secret passage?” Jacob said, looking over the door in confusion.

“Yes.”

“Where does it go? Does it connect to a different part of the manor?”

“Well, it connects to my “study” and…well, excuse me….but the sewers”

“The sewers?”

“Yes. My manor has a large… “tank” for holding sewage and every so often it is dumped out of the cliffs by use of several large pipes. Without it, the tank would burst and flood the manor. Travels through all sorts of tunnels in the rock, spilling out into a channel we dug out behind the manor.”

“Hmmm. Clever…”

Jacob looked back at the man, who was now observing out the window towards the town below. “What do you mean….your “study” is there?”

“Well….I have a large laboratory just past the sewers…I use for more personal affairs…”

“What do you mean? Anything to your work?”

“Yes. Maybe I will take you down tomorrow. Show you the project so far….’

“Really? That would be most wonderful!”

“Indeed it would! Now please, retire to your room. It is getting very late…about 3 in the morning I believe and I wish for you to be up bright and early”

“What will you do?”

“Stay up a bit more. Finish something I was working on…”

Jacob nodded. He was feeling tired anyway and a rest would suit him well.

“Alright then. Goodnight, Montague”

“Goodnight to you, Jacob. Oh, and just a precaution…”

Jacob looked back. The man had turned away from the window, still looking down upon the darkened village.

“Please, if you go for something to eat at the middle of the night and if you hear any noises….just relax. My work has some very messy tendencies and I always get caught up in the clutter…”

“Oh. Well, okay then! Goodnight…”

Jacob left the room. Behind him, he could swear he heard Montague laughing under his breath.

…………………………………………………………………………….

Part 3: IN ITS STEEL EMBRACE SO SILENT AND DEEP, WE DRIFT TO SLEEP.

…………………………………………………………………………………….

Jacob slept well that night. No odd noises or strange events. He still wondered what the baron said about odd noises.

His room was small. Just like his dorm back at University. A dresser beside the bed, a desk with some old newspapers and a large window overlooking the docks and bay area below.

As Jacob rolled out of bed, he felt a stinging pain in his left arm. Then, he saw a smear of dried black-red blood trailing down his shoulder.
“What the ….?” Jacob gingerly touched the wound. It was fresh, in the sense it stung greatly as he touched it.

“Must have been these damned wooden backboards….” Jacob thought, climbing out to change from his sleeping wear. The boards were always splintery and sharp, he probably cut himself in his sleep.

He changed quickly, noticing the odd draft in the room. There were no open windows or vents. Like a cold breeze blowing from somewhere in the room…

But he paid no mind to it. Instead, his mind focused on breakfast. His only meal was supper yesterday at 6 in the afternoon. A less-then filling meal of salted pork and cornbread at the harbor’s tavern. A good meal would suit him nicely.

He walked down the corridor to the staircase, where he would then arrive at the atrium and into the dining halls. Along the way, he noticed a peculiar sense of loneliness, as if the manor should have more people than just one man.

Jacob walked down the spiraling staircase and into the atrium, whereas he saw Montague sipping down some coffee.

“Ah, morning Jacob!” The man smiled as he saw him. “Sleep well?”

“Yes, I did.” Jacob sat in front of the fireplace. “May I ask, did I miss breakfast?”

“Miss breakfast?” Montague gave a hearty laugh. ‘Why, you slept so long I feared you would miss out on today!”

“Is today the day I get to see your newest works?”

“Yes! I have always wanted to show someone of my intellectual sameness my great works!”

“What? Have you not shown this to anyone before?”

“No! It is still under…developments…sort to speak”

Montague smiled, looking up at Jacob. “But I can still show you the finished parts. And maybe….”

“Maybe what?”

“Oh, I’ll explain later! Come now, do you recall the door in the old room I had shown you?”

“Yes”

“Follow me.”

Montague got up, setting his coffee down on the table. Jacob followed, noticing how tired Montague had seemed. It was if he had not slept at all last night.

Beneath their feet, Jacob could swear he felt the house shake from below.

………………………………………………………………..

They were back in the room, passageway still locked shut. Montague pulled out a small silver key from his breastpocket, placing it into the lock.

There was a dull click and the steel door swung open; a wave of dust and a foul smell of oil and another odd smell Jacob could not tell. From what he could see from within the dark chamber was a spiral staircase, stretching down into the gullet of the black void.

Montague grabbed a lantern from the table beside the shelf, lighting it with a snap of a switch. He held it down the stairs, moving it about as if to see some odd placement or oddity left behind.

“So? Do you wish to follow?” Montague said, stepping down towards the first few steps.
“Where does it lead? Your study?”

“Yes, just follow me.” Montague said, his voice monotone as he began to walk down the stairs.

Jacob followed, grasping the ice cold railing as they went. There was a low rumble as they descended deeper into the chamber. A deep vibration as if someone was playing a drum or some great unknown machine was clanking away hard at work.

There was an odd feeling about the chamber. It seemed… “out-of-place” in the manor. Why would Monatgue hide his workspace so far below? And in such a cold, damp place?

Then, they stopped just outside a small space in the chamber. A wooden board was laying the center. The walls seemed smooth, wet and cold to the touch as Jacob’s shoulders brushed against them.

Montague moved ahead, lifting the board on a pair of metal hinges. As he did, Jacob heard a low hiss of steam and the feel of warmth blast from the space. Montague got down on his knees and climbed down upon a ladder down to the space. Jacob gulped a lump back in his throat and followed.

What Jacob saw as he descended as something unexpected. A small room built into the chamber space. Montague stood at the bottom, looking over at Jacob.

The room was empty, save for the odd shaped door at the far end. It was a large circular object, placed on a strange mechanism that reached to a control box on a pedestal. The walls were dotted with cone-shaped steel objects, each dripping with water. Jacob looked up and saw instead of a plain wooden roof, there was a metal grate concealing a large industrial fan.

“Monatgue, where are we…?”

Jacob never got an answer. Instead, a large blast of what seemed like fog burst from the walls. It was warm and dense, seemed to be hard to breathe correctly. Montague seemed to vanish in the fog.

“Montague? Montague?”

Then, as soon as it all started, the fan above turned on, dispersing the fog away. Montague appeared again, standing in front of the door. A golden plague on the wall, stenciled words on it, read: “DECONTAMINATION CHAMBER”

“Decontamination…?”

Jacob walked over to Montague, feeling damp and odd; sluggish and feeble in a sense. Montague glanced at him.

“First time in the Decontamination Chambers are always odd. Fear not, it cleans you and is actually quite relaxing. At least for me. Keeps germs and filth from my machine.”

Montague saw the button on the box light up. He hit a switch, hearing the sound of whirring and rattling of winches and cables.

The door slowly rolled away, tugged by thick steel cables pulled by machinery of unknown place. As the door rolled away, Jacob saw a flash of bright light and the sounds and sights of machinery.

Montague stepped inside, a smile spread upon his face above his beard. Jacob looked in, gasping at what he saw.

Inside the large room he saw a grand amount of machinery. Large tinted glass tubes on the walls carried contents by hydraulic hooks. A series of pistons, moving back and forth in a rapid motion, formed the ceiling. Pipes ran up and down the walls; a low echo of a liquid sloshing inside them. A set of cables ran across the floor, connected and branching to different machines. The sound of gears and chains echoed across the chamber.

“What is this place?”

“My study. My project.”

“What…?”

“Jacob, do you not know the full extent of my works?” Montague asked, a wicked smile stretched across his face.

“No…”

“You see, this is my invention-my creation formed from my own blood and sweat! Thousands of dollars sunk into constructing such a marvel! All to finish my discovery!”

“What was your discovery?” Jacob looked at him. Montague seemed to be frantic, waving his hands about as his eyes darted curiously over the room.

“You see, when I was doing an experiment on the combination of some of my past chemical creations. I was trying to create a new compound that could act as a fuel source-a biofuel, you should say-that would be used multiple times over. Imagine, coal and oil and steam would become worthless! People would use this new fuel to power machinery, homes, ships, anything!”

“So this whole mess of machinery is just for fuel?”

“No! That was before my breakthrough! As I was searching for a new set of compounds in my old alchemist books, I found a page hidden away in the cover. A false cover in which someone could slide a paper into the space between the two thin covers! It was a page I had never seen before, filled with odd symbols and written in an old Latin language. I was able to use my books to understand a good lot of the words…then, I saw something incredible.”

“What?”

“A guide to opening something….a doorway, the page said.”

“A doorway? What do you mean?”

“Imagine a way to see another place…another time…somewhere different….a portal to other worlds and lands…”

“A portal? Are you joking? Surely you are, are you?”

“No! I learned of a combination of compounds needed to begin the….uh… “Passage Rituals…” One needed a specific set of compounds, a mastery of alchemist studies and a space open enough to fully open the doorway”

“Montague, please! You cannot be serious!”

“But I am, Jacob! You are one of the few who know this!”

Jacob sighed. This was some elaborate joke, it had to be. Maybe he could humor the man, see where it goes.

“How would one…open this doorway exactly?

“A ritual! To open the doorway without it would be near mad! Impossible!”

“How do you do the ritual?”

Montague pointed towards a small leather-bound journal on a desk. The journal, stained and ripped, held a picture of 3 tall columns, surrounding a circular object. Strange markings were written across the page, some pointing to other alien symbols. Latin was the prime language of this piece of work. It seemed like a type of manual of some sort.

“That book…when decoded and transcribed, can give us the steps we need to properly activate the machine. The machine will transfuse our elements to power the main equipment to open the doorway.” Montague leaned over the desk. “It gets easier as we go, I assure of this, my dear fellow”

Montague reeled back to a small control panel, occasionally flicking levers and switches as deep tone of machinery roared throughout.

“Care to see the rest of the complex?”

“There is more? How large is this place exactly?”

“Oh, just a bit past my manor. It hits the tunnels I told you before. We are in the Main Hall now…let’s see here…”

Montague paced over to a map on the wall. A guide to the rest of the complex.

“We’ll head to the Chemical Depository….we’ll get associated with some basic elements there.” He smiled and wavered Jacob over to a large steel door. Jacob walked over to it, darting his head about the place in quick motions.

“How long did you have this?” Jacob said, as they paced down a large hallway. Machinery clanked and hissed about them. Cogs and gears spun on large steel axles, turning pistons and other types of equipment. Large tinted glass pipes covered the ceiling, sloshing with an unseen liquid.

“After my discovery….” Montague said, patting the walls as if in a fond way. Much like a farmer would do with his prized horse. “I spend quite a bit of my fortune mining the tunnels clear and hiring engineers from London and France and down North in Pennsylvania and New York to help construct it…”

“How have I nor anyone else heard of this?”

“The men were paid double to keep silent. Until I was ready to unveil it to the world, I had to complete it! I wanted no mere burglar or naïve fool poking his head around such delicate equipment!”

“So….why am I being shown this? If you trust no one with your machine?”

“Jacob, my lad! You are a good laugh indeed! You are the only one knowledgeable enough to actually compete with me! And I do need help now that my dear old servants are off, gallivanting in the forest out there”

Jacob smiled. Here he was, a mere university student, being asked to help one of the world’s greatest minds! Sure, the work was…odd…but wasn’t science and the like just that? Odd, unexplored nonsense? In the end, they may discover something great! Maybe something that could change humanity for the better!

The two men ran along the corridor, Montague looking about with pride at his precious machines. As they walked, they passed two huge steel tanks, standing alone in a huge space out of the way.

A sign, nailed to the control panel, read: “DANGER: POSIONOUS GASES PRESENT! DO NOT OPEN CANISTERS!”

Montague looked at the tanks and sighed, eyes glazing over the wooden sign.

“During my work on a fuel substance for the machinery, I made a special gas that I believed would drive the steam engines that power the lot…keep the water running for the manor clean….but the gas I made became dangerous….highly corrosive of wood too. It burned the machine’s wooden supports and almost killed half my men. So we sealed it up inside those aluminum tanks to keep it secure. Maybe we’ll find a way to dull out the chemical substance. One day…”

Jacob looked at the large tanks, covered in a shining coat to protect it from rusting and spilling the gases. He noticed a most peculiar thing as he walked farther away, in the back of the tanks. There was a very faint smell of sulfur mixed with a hint of burning metal. Like it was leaking out from the tanks from something. He turned his head a bit more, seeing the objects behind the tank.

Hoses. Aluminum pipes running behind the tanks. As if Montague was pumping them out somewhere….

“Jacob!” Montague shouted. “Please don’t dawdle! There are some more things I think you would need to see ahead!”

Jacob turned his head and quickly ran after the man, coat flapping behind him. He saw Montague turn a corner and then disappear.

“Hey! Wait for me!”

Jacob stumbled, turning the corner with the grace of a deer slipping on a frozen creek. Montague was standing still on the left side of the hallway, seemingly transfixed by a large metal door.

The door was heavily locked with chains and padlocks. A cold draft passed through the tiny cracks between the wall and the door. There was also a foul smell in the air, like decaying meat.  A sign on top of the frame read: “FUEL STORAGE”

Montague tapped on the door, hearing the dull metal echo throughout the hall. He glanced over at Jacob, then back at the door. He seemed to be in thought of something. Then, as fast as the expression came on his face, he looked back again at Jacob and sighed.

“Jacob?”

“Yes, Montague?”

“Can I ask of you one thing?”

“Of course!”

“Promise me…you will never go beyond that door”

“Why not?”

Montague stammered for a moment, eyes darting about nervously. “Er….the fuel storage contains extremely dangerous machinery. Only I know how to run it….one of my servants…uh….almost lost his hand working with me…”

Jacob stared for a moment, watching the man in front of him stumble about for an answer. The smell was back, a rotting, foul smell.  It burned his nostrils profusely.

Jacob recalled a smell like that from when he went hunting with his roommates during the summer. Edgar and John had found a large decaying animal lying flopped over, half-buried in the mud of the creek bank. It was probably a wild turkey or long-dead bear, rotting away under the hot June sun. Edgar pushed it over into the rushing creek with his rifle, the smell of the rotting flesh pierced the noses of the men, sending them hurrying back from the carcass as it was swept away and torn by the thrashing current.

Montague by now was moving on, hurrying away from the door. “Come now, Jacob. I feel like we should….er…cancel this little tour short. I’m quite hungry and it’s almost lunch by now. I’ll make us a fine meal and I could show you a bit more around the manor topside.”

“Well…okay then” Jacob shrugged. He was feeling a bit hungry too, having missed breakfast earlier. A nice sandwich or maybe some roast would help him relax.

“Excellent!” Montague perked up at once, rubbing his beard happily. “We’ll take the eastern passage out. More scenic route around the island, I say”

“Eastern passage?”

“See, we use the tunnels to give us escape routes or hidden entrances to our machine. This way…” Montague said, walking down the hallway. “We could safely escape, lest something goes wrong”

“Ah.” Jacob nodded and walked behind Montague, scurrying past machinery and small rooms built into the walls, filled with desks, chairs and fireplaces. To keep workers warm in the freezing underground.

After a bit, they arrived at a hallway with a large circular chamber. At the center, wrapped about a thin steel post was a spiraling staircase, leading to a wooden space built on top. Small streams of sunlight pouring through the driftwood door filled the corners of the room.

Montague grasped the railing and began the ascent, Jacob following behind. Montague arrived at the top, pushing open the small wooden door. A burst of light, not artificial from lanterns or torches, struck Jacob, almost blinding him. Covering his eyes, he followed Montague up to the surface.

As Jacob surfaced, he noticed they were in some sort of tower. Long, featureless curved walls surrounded the two men. Another staircase twined its way upwards in the center. A sole window in the right let sunlight inside the room, and a view of the Redwood Bay. Jacob smelled the salty ocean air from even within the room.

“Are we in the lighthouse?” Jacob asked curiously, pulling himself to his feet.

“Yes. We are” Montague nodded, brushing dust off his pants. “The old lighthouse keeper….Johnson, I think his name was….died a few years back. I bought the lighthouse and maintained it for my purposes.”

Jacob looked around. Outlines of paintings and portraits still were etched on the walls. A spot for a lantern hung above the old pine door. The floor was dirty and covered in rat trails and straw. Montague probably just spent more time with the lantern in the upper floor and the machine in the makeshift basement.

Montague pushed open the lighthouse door, motioning Jacob to follow. Jacob stepped out, taking one last look at the lighthouse interior.

The sky was a light blue, clouds rolling above the white frothing waves as they crashed against the cliffs. The beach was a golden color, constantly being pushed back by the rolling tides. The forest, with the manor sticking out the clearing, covered most of the valley where Redwood was. A small trail of cobblestones lead to a small path to where one could dock and access the manor’s front yard.

Montague began talking about the island and its history as they climbed the dusty trail back up to the manor. Jacob felt a bit guilty as he wasn’t paying attention, instead looking about the beachfront.

As they climbed up past the tree line, Jacob saw the docks. A set of wooden piers and small shacks branching out into the bay. Ships still blocked and zig-zagged about the docks, preventing any formal access to the harbor impossible. No one was around, the ships rocking in the waves. Someone surely would have come back from the retreat to check on the docks for shipments. Would they?

“Now….Redwood in the beginning years of the Civil War became used for a secret supply spot for all Union forces….er….McCellan, ….I think Grant came around once or twice with that Sherman fellow…” Montague rambled on, halfway up past Jacob.

“Yes….” Jacob said, snapping back to attention.  He had just begun to hear about how Redwood Island was bombarded by Confederates for supplies when he noticed the crack of the valley where Redwood lay.

Redwood was empty too. No one in sight. No carriages lining the street, horses in the pens, no lit lanterns in the streetposts. It seemed like they left for the retreat in some hurry. He also noticed one of the houses that was on the outskirts of the town was crumbling. Sagging into the ground. It looked new, almost built the weeks before. Why would a newly built house began collapsing in only days?

“Now…Confederates wanted the island for lumber….to build forts and the such…that was before Gettysburg….after Bull Run, I think”

Jacob nodded off-handily. There was a strange faint smell in the air. Like melting sulfur or a sour burning.  He remembered the smell from the tanks down in the machine.

As they walked up to the manor, Jacob felt the ground rumble. The trees shook, leaves falling from the branches and sending black specks of birds away from their precarious perches and into the summer sky.

Montague never noticed, Jacob saw. He seemed to be walking along, rambling and talking about the island and some people he met in the town during the harvest in the spring last year. They had went missing the month before.  

Jacob had stopped listening all together. In fact, he saw something off as Montague spoke about the missing townspeople.

Jacob could swear he was smirking.

……………………………………………………………….
The whiskey was warm. He didn’t care. Whiskey was whiskey.
It burned his throat as he swallowed it. A dry, slow burning. He didn’t care.
The glass made a low thud as it hit the oak of the counter; droplets of whiskey splashing against the surface and dripping off the edges. The bottle-once full-was now half empty, standing to the corner of his eyes.
It wasn’t a very expensive whiskey. Cheap stuff. You could buy it from the local liquor store just off the highway. That’s what he liked about it.
Whiskey was whiskey, after all.
The bar scene was empty. An hour had gone by after the evening crowds rolled in. He could not recall the time they had come in, or when they had left. The only evidence of more life mingling about the bar were a few smoking cigarettes shoved into an ashtray and a tipped over barstool laying out of place in a corner just past the basement door.
The after-show of the big game was still on the TV. Albeit sometimes jumbled and fuzzy. Words slurring back and forth into new words or sometimes new alien languages. The TV was old. Bartender lugged it in from his basement and decided to let it gather dust up here. He always said they should fix it, but money was tight and expenses were…well….
He never finished the thought. His head hurt-a symphonious sound of drums only that he could hear playing low in his temple. His palms grew sweaty, fumbling with a page of the newspaper left on the counter. He shivered, blown by an invisible chill. His eyes glanced around the small radius of which they were accustomed.
Palms drenched in perspiration, he picked up the glass bottle, eyeing the light brown whiskey ripple inside. He tipped the bottle; the whiskey splashing into the shot glass.
With his trembling hands, he raised the glass to his dry lips and quickly drank down the liquid. The burning he had become used to by now.
As the feeling of pain rolled away, he glanced slowly around the bar, feeling nauseas with every light swing.
The bar was, or course, empty. Well, except for him and the bartender, who was busy taking stock of the bottles left in the little overhead racks holding the drinks.
The bartender was new. At least, to him it seemed. The other bartender-the one who poured the whiskey with some dry joke or stocked the bottles with some look of grimace on his old tired face- was gone. Vacation, he had heard from talk around the other bar-flies.
He liked the old bartender. The guy was old, about 60 or something. He wore the same clothing day in and day out. An old white shirt and a pair of beat-up overalls which he wore under a brown coat. He was a tall guy, skinny like a neck of a bottle of beer. The old guy would let him in, get some drinks and stumble back to his dorm.
Sure, the old guy had seeing problems. Made it easy for a minor like him to sneak in. He was 18, all he had to do was simply not shave for about a few days and he could pass for 21. The ID he made off a buddy who lived out back the Macy’s downtown in a van. Weird guy, but the deals were good and he got money and he got drinks.
Win-win, he thought.
But, all of that aside, this new bartender seemed more….upbeat. A young guy, about 23 or so. Nice combed-back blond hair, tall, skinny and wearing a bright white apron he had found in the closet. Whistled as he poured and whistled as he took stock.
Why someone would be so cheerful serving drinks to some bums with spare change, he would never know.
Feeling the throbbing come back, he reached for his glass; delicately picking it up as he tilted the bottle. A small stream of whiskey, just enough to form more than a puddle at the bottom of the glass, spilled out.
Great. Another dry-one.
He looked over at the barkeep. Still whistling cheerfully as he wrote numbers down on a stained notepad. Time to get him to do his job.
“Bar….barkeep!” He shouted, words slurring slowly from his mouth. “More….more…god….juice this way!”
The barkeep turned around. Rather than storm over and stick a bony figure in his chest and bark some stupid rule out before kicking him to the curb, he simply smiled and put the notepad down.
“Right away!”
He grabbed a large bottle of bourbon, strutting over with it. “Made in Smith’s Grove, Kentucky. Black Dog Bourbon. For those with a Bite” he said, proudly reading the label.
Now, quite frankly he couldn’t care less what the name of this stuff was, all he wanted to know that it would be in his glass or else this barkeep would lose some of those pearly-whites of his.
The barkeep opened the bottle, spilling the contents into the glass. He poured a small amount into it. Small, but enough.
“Be careful, man” The barkeep said, taking out a dirty green rag and wiped down the counter. “Strong stuff”
You shot him a glare, slugging down the drink.
Strong stuff. Burned more than the whiskey that was for true.
The barkeep stares at the counter, wiping it down in slow and easy motions. He seems to be rambling an old folk song under his breath, tapping his finger along the metal bar of the counter in rhythm.
The TV above the barkeep’s head had switched to an advertising channel. One of those channels playing nothing but advertisements and whatnot to the tune of odd, yet familiar-sounding music. They were selling old phones just down past the college. The music was an orchestra beat, echoing loudly through the empty room. A slow scene of a 1986 desk phone revolving around on a platform was shown, extra parts laid aside it.
The barkeep reached up, turned the TV down a bit and looked up at you. He had a warm smile on his face, bright brown eyes as large as the rim of the glass stared at you.
“So…” He said in a cheerful tone, yet sounding questioning. “What’s your story?”
“Story?”
“Yes. Why are you here?”
“Why are you here?” That sounded like a stupid question. To drink. A man doesn’t drink alone happy. He doesn’t drink alone with a smile.
He drinks to forget. He drinks to numb. He drinks to instill a memory to replace many more.
But it never works. If it did, he wouldn’t be here right now. He would be asleep in his dorm or…or…maybe…
No. They won’t. Not after what happened. And that was why he was here so often. Drink down the memory.
But, as said, it never worked. All he needed though was more bourbon. It would work in time.
“Uh….just here to get away…”
The barkeep seemed puzzled. His cheerful expression turned into a confused stare. “Get away from what?”
Quick. Think of something fast.
“Uh…life, you know. Real busy out there”
“Rat race, huh?”
He faked a smile, sipping down the bourbon. “Yeah…”
The bartender nodded and turned the TV back up, going back to his repetitive chore. The TV was now playing an advertisement for horse figurines. Old silver statues of horses in glass cases stood where the phones once stood. A sound of church organ music accompanied the advertisement.
“Where are you from?” The bartender said, resting a shoulder on the counter.
“Wh…what is this? Twenty Questions…?” He slurred, drops of bourbon spilling from his lips.
“Where are you from?” The barkeep asked again, cheerful yet firm.
“Uh….let’s just say out-of-town…that’s all”
“Really?” The bartender tapped the counter with his ring finger, almost thinking he was being lied to.
He shrugged, sipping down his drink. “Say, what’s my tab?”
“Tab? Oh!” The barkeep pulled a list out of his pocket, along with a small pocket calculator. He wrote something down, other hand tapping out equations on the calculator’s dull colored screen. He stopped short, staring at the number he had formed.
“How long have you been coming here?”
“What do you mean?”
“How long have you come here? This bar?”
“Oh….uh…see…maybe once or twice a weekend…”
“Says here you owe…uh…let’s see…about $346.00 of expenses….adding the tax…”
“Whoa!” he slammed the empty glass on the table. “I just said to add up tonight’s tab, buddy. Not all the interest…”
The bartender simply stared. “What is the date today, man?”
“Uh….jeez, I dunno….May 31st…”
He nodded slowly, as if proving his point. “End of the month…time to call in…a reckoning, I guess”
“Listen…listen….I just need some more time….” He said, fumbling for an explanation or some kind of excuse. “I have no money on me at the moment and…”
“Do you have a job?”
He sighed, slumping forward on the table. “No….never needed one…”
“Why?”
“Uh….well, let’s just say I had some “cushion” to help me”
“Cushion?”
“You know…money. Big amount too. A few thousand…”
“Few thousand?”
“Yeah….heh…”
“Where is all that money?”
“Gone. Spent it”
“On what?”
He didn’t like the bartender’s tone. Nor did he like the way he was pestering him for information. Normally, and the bar being this empty, he would have slugged the bartender off his feet. But, tonight…well…he just couldn’t move.
“Stuff…”
“What kind of stuff?” The bartender retracted on his question. “My apologies for being so picky. How did you get all this money in the first place?”
“Man…listen, I don’t want to talk about it…”
“If you don’t. I am afraid I will cut you off…police would not be too happy seeing someone like you out in the middle of the night..”
He grimaced at the bartender with a cold stare.  Either this or take the night bus back home.
“Okay….well….my old man’s dad…”
“Your grandfather, I presume?”
“Yes. See, he was a big guy up on the corporate chain…Vice President, I think. He died back about 5 years ago. Heart attack, was it? Maybe it was a stroke…”
The bartender nodded his head, listening to every word. The TV was off now, leaving the only source of sound in the dead empty bar was the man’s slurring mouth.
“When he kicked the bucket, he left my old man roughly….maybe…ten thousand dollars in his will. He was his only son and guess he wanted him to be happy….”
“How was your father?”
“Eh. Strict, for a better word. Never let me do anything. No parties with friends. No hanging out after 10….man, he was a….”
The barkeep stopped him. “Just continue on…”
“Where was I…?” He paused trying to piece the memory together. Like a jigsaw puzzle of words constantly rearranging themselves in his head.
“Oh yeah….my dad knew we were going to college soon and gave us a cut each to get started….me, my brother and my oldest sister.”
“Your siblings? Where are they?” he put emphasizes on the word “they”, as if joking at him. Saying, for a better term, “you lonely old drunk”.
“Oh, my brother went off to Computer College or something. Always loved electronics. When we were younger, I was 16 and he was 18, he spent all this time in the attic of our garage. Empty place before he stocked it with old computer monitors and circuits and transistors. He built a weird little computer or something once. Didn’t too much, just slid a punch card in through a little slot and the computer would read it out. But he thought it was impressive. And so did the Board of Administrations.”
“Where is your brother?”
“Back home in New York, from what I hear. Studying transistor-based circuitry or whatever. Forgot his number back home. He won’t help me either besides.”
Your sister?”
“My sister was…well…an artist, sort to speak.”
“An artist? Oh, did she paint murals or just sketch?”
“None of them. She did “installations”.
“Installations?”
“Yeah, that art that-her words, not mine- “defined dimension and space to broaden the narrowing perception of man and art”. Well, she made this…uh…sculpture out of old steel wire and some of my brother’s old wiring systems”
“What was it?”
“I have no idea…” He sipped more down, no longer caring to use the glass of which his hands had held for so long. “This geometric structure that always seemed to change before your eyes. One moment you are staring through it, move a bit to your left and you are staring below it…weird stuff. She actually made some money making them, did you know?”
He set the bottle down on the counter, shaking his head. “Went somewhere down in Pennsylvania. For art or something. I think she is in a band too…would have went to see her, but…”
He closed his eyes and took a deep exhale, casting a smell of liquor and cigarette smoke waft from his maw.
“I went out here, looking for a college on…er…well, whatever I liked I would choose…”
“Free-thinker, huh?”
“I guess…” his eyes rolled back and forth as he spoke. “Had a ton of money and nothing to do with it…”
“Which brings me back to the question at hand…” The bartender said. “What happened?”
“Met a couple of guys off the campus. Drove around in a beat-up Volkswagen bus. Covered in graffiti and rusted from the headlights to the trunk. I met one during a walk around campus. Man, was he nuts! Had sunglasses on with spikey messed-up hair and was swigging old Jack Daniels from a flask. Don’t know how, but we started talking and…”
“And what?”
“Things were alright. Went to bars, got drunk off of cheap swill, spend the summer nights driving around the city like a group of drifters. No purpose. No idea. Just the road.” He said, almost fashioning it into a poem.
“Then, the trouble started. Those guys got a little too “extravagant”. Nothing like drugs or illegal stuff. Just began running up tabs. One time, we ran up a tab of over 600 dollars in one night…heh….but I always bailed the tabs out. Slid a little interest to cover up tracks if we needed to”
He got real quiet for a minute, eyeing the glass and bottle as if they were temptations. “My old man found out from some old swill-jockey in a dive bar…”
“Oh…”
“He called me back home. I drove the 2 hours back home in the old bus…wasn’t exactly a happy reunion…”
He swallowed hard and stared down at his folded hands. “I said some things in an argument….pretty rough things…got mad and smashed a hole in the wall with my fist…can’t recall the rest, guess I stormed out…”
There was an eerie pause. Tension filled the room, ready to snap at any time.
“Came back…stopped outside this bar and…well, ran up tabs. Swallowing my past with a dry future of rye and whiskey…”
“How long was this ago?”
“Give or take a year. I never called. He never did. And it stayed like that…”
“Why?”
“Why what?”
“Did you not call?”
“What? Call him up and try to blow over something like that? Huh, good luck with that, buddy…”
“How do you know he wouldn’t be mad?”
“I know he will be. Broke, jobless and running on booze and broken dreams. While my brother builds computers and my sister makes art…ugh…”
The bartender got up, looking at him confused. Or was it judgement. None of them lasted, as he got up and walked back to the office in the back. He returned, holding something under his arm.
“How long has it been since you went to church?”
“Jeez…I dunno. Haven’t met that old Father back home in ages…”
The barkeep nodded. “Do you know Luke 15?”
“No.”
“Ah, I see. Do you know the parable of the Prodigal Son?”
“Maybe. Jog my memory a bit...”
“Well, to sum it up in layman’s speak, it’s more or less about a son that spends his father’s estate money in wasteful ways. Drinking and whatnot. There is a famine and the kid, who lost his money, begins to starve.”
“This sounds odd…why are you telling me this?”
He ignored him. “He knows he has to go home, but fears his father will be angry when he learns what he’s been doing all these years. He goes home and learns that the old man welcomes him back and throws a feast to celebrate.”
“What? Again, why are you telling me…” His voice dropped as the words fell together.
“Ohhhh no, you won’t” he hissed coldly. “No way am I going home and facing that old nutcase. Not after what I did”
“How do you know?”
“I just…just do!” he slammed his fist down on the table. The glass clattered against the oak in an unsteady rhythm.
The barkeep sighed and opened the Bible he had tucked under his shoulder, laying it down in front of him.
“Here, man. Read it over. I won’t bother you with it anymore. Your choice, my friend”
He began to walk away, slinging the rag over his shoulder.
“Hey? Where….where are you going?”
“Back room. Call me if you need anything”
He sighed at the response. Thank God. Peace and quiet at last.
He reached for the bottle, hoping to polish off the rest. The thumping in his head was back again.
But, he couldn’t.
It was some odd feeling deep in his stomach. He looked down at the Bible, noting the stained pages and smell of beer from the covers. Opened to Luke 15…
Well, what’s the harm…?
He sighed and began to read it over. At first, the words seemed to slide together and make bizarre new phrases in some long-forgotten language. Then, it got easier. The words blended together again as normal. The haze of which he had been seeing slowly lifted.
He looked back down the counter. A small payphone was there, rigged against the wall. The back office door was open. A white apron laying on the floor. The exit door didn’t seem open. Like the guy just got up and vanished into thin air.
With a gulp of confidence and footsteps of lead, he sluggishly walked over to the payphone, fumbling for change in his pocket.
One quarter. Two quarters. Three quarters…
He held the receiver to his ear as his fingers carefully dialed the number. The numbers seemed to pop off the buttons. The ringtone was a comforting noise of endless dull beats.
In the empty bar in the empty street, the sun rose from the horizon. Streaks of red-orange lining in patterns across the mountains. The last stars faded away into the black night.
And in that empty bar that sat lonely and still under the rising sun, two soft hellos from one to another broke the silence.
The Bartender
Believ it or not, this was a short story made for a class in school. Theology. That's why it gets religious. Maybe I'll add it to my collections....
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Imagine would you kindly a place. Not just any place like a stereotypical land or plain or desert. Imagine not a simple place, but a world.

A world with a molten core surrounded by a great thick crust dotted with deep blue oceans and vast sprawling oceans, crawling with life and organisms. Imagine this world has a sun brighter than any sun you could picture and a moon of silver and grey as if crafted by the rough hands of a silversmith. Imagine this world surrounded by stars aglow, galaxies swirling to form a pattern of alien construct and the void of an inky blackness beyond our mere human grasp of our vast imaginations and ideas.

This world is much like ours, yet is somehow not. Like looking a picture taking by two different types of cameras, at two differing angles and two different dimensions. Both the same, yet amazingly different to the eye of a man. There are oceans as deep and blue as the ones we have, forests as tall and vast like the forests we have; maybe even there are jungles of steam and vine.

There is a warm blue sky and a cold black night like the ones we have lived through and seen by us within the longevity of our lives.

There are cities and towns stretching from a coast where it meets the foaming oceans to the mountains ripping tears into the grey wisps of sky and cold atmosphere. Cities with towering buildings dotted with the hum of a neon color and glowing lights of the steel streetlamps illuminating a street of people in either fancy cocktail dresses and tuxedos of fine silk or rags of leather strips and dirty shoes held by strings and cheap adhesive. Music that you can’t put your finger on echoes from somewhere in the depths of an alley or a high-rise piercing the moonlight. Maybe the music is jazz. Maybe swing. A starting piece of some classic big band or orchestra? No…but you have heard it before. Maybe it will come to you, a thought cries from your head, it will have to come to you.

This world, you are imaging using our human perception of place and sense, holds…”things”. Fantastical things. Things only a man can dredge up from the deepest lines of his imagination.

Treasures of gold and silver line the richest halls and galas of manor and mansions. Money flows throughout extravagant casinos where waitress and waiter attend to a crowded blackjack table or a bar lined with strange, exotic spirits and well-dressed, yet suspicious men grasping shot glasses or fading playing cards amid the clatter and clinking of bar glasses and that still strange music. Grand museums and galas holding art and writings from the mind of artists and scholars most brilliant.

Sports like, for say, wrestling are held in mass arenas and  concrete domes, where those who come to watch grasping the edge of their seats, eyes open and mouths agape like witnessing some unknown, alien pleasure that one imagined they simply could not imagine or those who sit in backrooms with bills and coin shoved into bulging wallets sit at tables and smoke cigars while listening to hissing radio reports of a match or event. Cathedrals made of stone and glass fill weekly with religious folk or those seeking a way to be clean of past sins, mortal or simple.

Fantastical beings roam this planet. From most curious fish-people living in a Chinatown-esque lot surrounded by high tides, docks and oceans deep and blue to even the simplest bird or snake you find in a tree or a hole in your backyard. Humans live there too, I can heavily assure of such a fact.

Science, as you know, is only limited to simple robotics or some other thought that we consider grand, is here expanded beyond our own beliefs. The sick and weak can be healed within days by extreme advances in medical sciences. The injured or the most wounded can be given a second chance by use of seemingly impossible machinery or creations that seemingly defy all things possible and impossible.

Ruling over these vast continents is a royal family, a monarchy. The most current one is a fine woman and her little sister. The older one is, and by quote, “as smart as she is beautiful” and the little sister is “as cute as she is wild”. The parents of these two, the once king and queen, are…well…passed. I wish to spare the details and I may hope you do too.

Now, and as I say this I pray that I may never speak of this as much as I have to, there are…other things, I am most afraid. As man’s imagination holds wondrous things like science and art, we also hold more.

Things that make us sick.

Things that make us whimper and shiver by simple echo or word. Those things that only that we consider the twisted scum of the earth can sit in a room laughing and howling madly at, almost like they were told some alien joke with a punchline even more twisted.

If you peel back the glamour and dazzles of a city, you find a rotten core of corruption and evils that will drive you, and God help you, into the verge of madness. As I warned, only those who can at least attempt to look at what they may find will only stutter and shiver at what their eyes will glance upon.

A war. A war unlike any war your simple human mind can hold together. Envision a world plagued by a grand war with weapons that you have never seen and bloodshed forming and breaking groups. Cities and countries become ancient memory under bombing strikes and blitzes of flame, gas and mortar round. And who, I ask to myself and you as well, that others didn't suffer the same fates?

People, my friend. The innocent, the cruel, the sick, the weak, the poor, the rich, the clean, the filthy. All killed or round up like fat cattle or skinny horses to be sold as such for money or food. Entire groups of people lost all moral or sense as the war ended in their ruined little lives. No more could you buy food from a neighbor or grocer. You got what you got through the hands of yourself or the hands of a hired man. Crime, famine and madness spread like a damned disease.

Good people, some children, butchered or captured by the power-hungry or those teetering on the verge of madness.

But out of all the sick-minded and disturbed pack of slavers and murders rose something far more greater and dangerous. The name of the group I cannot tell you as I fear mere mentioning them could lead to my or your untimely fate. They were civilized, or at least beyond the madness of others one would say and had a strong grip on most business and had folks with in and out their “services”. I hope you never find out their services firsthand.

They had major wealth and infamous glory among a population of hundreds. Good parts of a city belong to them, guarded by people who resemble those out in the slums in alleys or warehouse holding guns to your head or a knife to your throat. They even have a public entertainment sponsored by them in secret. A fair or circus or some other odd public event.

Many have lived by the name and many have died by the name. I can only ask you pray you end up the latter. If you don’t…well…I’m sure you have more pressing matters of thought, hmm?

Above it all, as even the most good folk know, something much more horrible plagues the land. An artifact from what I gathered of sorts. Said to be a cross betwixt a skull and a human heart. God (or at least Goddess from what they worship) knows what or why it is.

Rumor is that it grant wishes. Anything your heart desires brought to reality like a dream or a needless want. But, there is a catch. Only women can perform the annual ritual. And another catch, as with all things I shall say, is if your heart is foul and wretched with sin, you become something…something…unimaginable.

Imagine a monster. Now picture that monster as someone you love like a mother or aunt or sister.

Isn’t it a lovely picture? This…oddity or spawn of some grand evil…has taken hundreds of lives, innocent or foul.

They are trying to stop the cycle of new generations of this monster, of course. As you recall, they have sciences unlike anything you have dared to see. Why not use those to stop the beast? To kill it, drive needles through its heart and salt the earth where it is buried?

Government projects and groups were formed by the top scientists and leading geniuses ever known. Weapons are forged, plans are thought up and soldiers are bred to hunt and slay this ancient horror and stop the nightmare.

But, just know this world has secrets. Dark and horrible secrets. Other…things…have been seen in the streets at night, howling and screeching. People vanish weekly from clubs and churches and the bodies found mutilated and scarred as if by some great horror or lunatic. I invite you to research these, but I fear you too may become like one of…one of…them…

Now, the ritual of a seven year time has begun again. Women and other folk head to seek this new and strange artifact. Each has their own motives to drive them and fuel their desires. Some are good, some are…are…well, as stated this world has some secrets it cannot be released.

Now, I expect you my friend wish to find out what is going on too. To unearth this weird and fantastical place despite the horror and mystery that plague it. To try and carve a new life for yourself and forge a destiny and fate that you can control.
Now, before I leave you, I must part with one final answer. Where exactly is this place? What is going on? How can I locate such a place?
My dear friend, the answer lies in front of you, but you just can’t see it. Or maybe you don’t wish to see it…
…………………………………………………………………………………..
Now, I bid you good luck in your travels to the Canopy Kingdom. May you live to prosper and grow like the others.
A Traveler's Guide to the Canopy Kingdom
My second Skullgirls story! Sorry for not being active on here so much, but fear not! I will be back soon!
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How attractive you are:
[] Ew not really
[] Gross
[] Ugly
[] You're ok
[] Alright getting better
[] Cute
[] Gorgeous/beautiful
[] Hot!!! B)
[] Perfect~ 
[] I honestly don't know what you look like! :I

What we'd look like in a picture:
[] Normal
[] Holding hands
[] Pulling faces
[] Couple poses

Where I'd get your named tattooed on me:
[] My wrist
[] My leg
[] My belly
[] My back
[] My neck
[] My foot
[] My ankle


What we'd do if we lived together:
[] Party, party, party!!!
[] Eat ice cream for breakfast
[] Have pillow fights
[] Go to the bedroom~ 
[] Have movie nights 
[] Cuddle and kiss~
[] Not live together in the first place...
[] Do whatever you wanna do
[] Do stuff...

What I'd do if you snuck into my room at night:
[] Scream!
[] Tell you to get out
[] Grin mischievously
[] Watch movies with you
[] Let you stay the night 
[] Kiss/cuddle you
[] Blush
[] Attack you

What I'd do to you in the rain:
[] Push you into a puddle
[] Kiss you
[] Hold you close
[] Let you under my umbrella 
[] Give you my jacket 
[] Jump on your back
[] Run away
[] Start to sing randomly
[] Dance with you

What I'd do if I saw you naked:
[] Walk out of the room scarred for life
[] Smirk and laugh
[] Take a picture 
[] Just stand there awkwardly
[] Say, "What the hell?! Get some clothes on!"
[] Blush
[] Walk out as if nothing happened B)
[] Scare you
[] Take your clothes 
[] I'd be petrified

What I'd do if we kissed:
[] Smile and blush
[] Be surprised 
[] Push you away
[] Pull you closer
[] Bite your lip so you'd bleed 
[] Wonder if we would kiss again
[] Slap yo' face!
[] Freak out, squeal and run around
[] Off to the bedroom~

You should...
[] 1. Be my friend
[] 2. Comment to my profile more
[] 3. Watch me
[] 4. Note me
[] 5. Put this as your journal so I can comment too

How attractive you are:
[] Ew not really
[] Gross
[] Ugly
[] You're ok
[] Alright getting better
[] Cute
[] Gorgeous/beautiful
[] Hot!!! B)
[] Perfect~ 
[] I honestly don't know what you look like! :I

What we'd look like in a picture:
[] Normal
[] Holding hands
[] Pulling faces
[] Couple poses

Where I'd get your named tattooed on me:
[] My wrist
[] My leg
[] My belly
[] My back
[] My neck
[] My foot
[] My ankle


What we'd do if we lived together:
[] Party, party, party!!!
[] Eat ice cream for breakfast
[] Have pillow fights
[] Go to the bedroom~ 
[] Have movie nights 
[] Cuddle and kiss~
[] Not live together in the first place...
[] Do whatever you wanna do
[] Do stuff...

What I'd do if you snuck into my room at night:
[] Scream!
[] Tell you to get out
[] Grin mischievously
[] Watch movies with you
[] Let you stay the night 
[] Kiss/cuddle you
[] Blush
[] Attack you

What I'd do to you in the rain:
[] Push you into a puddle
[] Kiss you
[] Hold you close
[] Let you under my umbrella 
[] Give you my jacket 
[] Jump on your back
[] Run away
[] Start to sing randomly
[] Dance with you

What I'd do if I saw you naked:
[] Walk out of the room scarred for life
[] Smirk and laugh
[] Take a picture 
[] Just stand there awkwardly
[] Say, "What the hell?! Get some clothes on!"
[] Blush
[] Walk out as if nothing happened B)
[] Scare you
[] Take your clothes 
[] I'd be petrified

What I'd do if we kissed:
[] Smile and blush
[] Be surprised 
[] Push you away
[] Pull you closer
[] Bite your lip so you'd bleed 
[] Wonder if we would kiss again
[] Slap yo' face!
[] Freak out, squeal and run around
[] Off to the bedroom~

You should...
[] 1. Be my friend
[] 2. Comment to my profile more
[] 3. Watch me
[] 4. Note me
[] 5. Put this as your journal so I can comment too

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T-FighterX9
Chase
Artist | Student | Literature
United States
My name is Chase and I enjoy writing stories about random crap.
Interests

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:icontannerxdelia:
TannerxDelia Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Hello
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:icont-fighterx9:
T-FighterX9 Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2015  Student Writer
Hello! Apologies for being late
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:icontannerxdelia:
TannerxDelia Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
There is a new movie from Disney and Pixar called Inside Out.
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:icont-fighterx9:
T-FighterX9 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2015  Student Writer
Oh! I know that
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(1 Reply)
:iconmisery-love-virgo:
Misery-Love-Virgo Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2014
I have your birthday request half completed. I'll try and finish it tomorrow.
Reply
:icont-fighterx9:
T-FighterX9 Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2014  Student Writer
Okay. I would love to see it tomorrow. Thanks!
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:iconcutie-kitty-julie:
Cutie-Kitty-Julie Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
best id ever
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:iconmisery-love-virgo:
Misery-Love-Virgo Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2013
Almost done with the chapter- won't be able to work on it till Thursday but it should be done before next monday.
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:iconmarches45:
Marches45 Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2013  Student General Artist
I can join, but not as an admin.
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:iconmisery-love-virgo:
Misery-Love-Virgo Featured By Owner Oct 13, 2013
Yo, the drawing of Jeff and DeeDee/Rose is posted :U
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